Captain Fish Sticks's Profile - Destructoid

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Been a gamer pretty much my entire life, though during the later years I gravitated more towards PC exclusivity as I was finding the more recent console generations to be more about passing gimmicks rather than providing engrossing gaming experiences. That's just my opinion, though.

Anyways, I've got a lot of different games spanning my Steam and Good-Old-Games library, as well as a few off of Steam. I'll probably list a few I play the most later.
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Xbox LIVE:Kurama Bingyi
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To say that Elder Scrolls Online is the best game ever would be really pushing it (because as we all know, it's impossible to make "the best MMO ever"), but it’s the opinion of this one unbiased gamer that it’s definitely a fantastic entry into the Elder Scrolls franchise and the MMO industry. It should be noted that this is just my opinion, though -- other folks will have different opinions, as is the norm for many MMOs released these days. So take what I’m about to tell you with a grain of salt, but I strongly urge folks to forget about what they read about or experienced in this game during its beta. From someone who’s actually tested it early on, it’s gone through so many leaps and bounds. Zenimax Online Studios has improved the experience ten-fold and delivered as best an effort as they could for an MMO. Whether that effort was good enough is left to the gamers to decide.

When you start your first character, you're required to play through the tutorial. It does a good job of teaching you the basics of the game (combat, how to block, how to exploit your opponents when they're dazed, etc...) and takes you through an interesting sequence where you're being led by Lyris Titanborn (played by Jennifer Hale, of Mass Effect fame) to rescue the Prophet (played by Dumbledore!) from his prison. Once you rescue him, you're taken to your faction's capitol city. Now, it used to be that they took you to your faction's starting island but some time between when I last went through the beta and the full release of the game they decided to change it so that you're started off in the first major zone for your faction. However, you do get a quest to go to the starting island in the main city, and you have the option to go there. It's highly recommended as not only does it formally start off your faction storyline, but you also have the opportunity to collect the islands' skyshards -- more on those, later.

I don’t really have much of a complaint, here. The starting islands felt railroad-esque that deviated little from the storyline, and it does color a slightly poor perception of the overall game. Thankfully this is “sort of” fixed by spawning new players in the middle of the beginner city in the much larger, open-ended zone, where they’re basically free to do as they wish in true Elder Scrolls fashion -- to a certain extent, of course.

From here, the game definitely opens up -- though it does so accordingly based on your character level. A lot of people will complain, and probably already have complained, about this. As a series, the Elder Scrolls games emphasized the importance and the attractiveness of open-world exploring right from the get-go. In ESO, that encouragement is still there in the form of searching for farming nodes, better-quality crafting areas, hunting down treasure chests and Skyshards, and running around in the many public dungeons peppered throughout the game world. However, you will be at the mercy of higher-level monsters and enemies if you venture too far off of the “beaten path.”

If you actually think about it, this was pretty much similar to how Morrowind played out. Although you could go anywhere at any time, there were areas with enemies who could eat you alive if you were unprepared in terms of character skill level and gear. It wasn’t as obvious as an MMO, but it was still there regardless. The same idea could be applied to ESO, except there is a hard-coded difficulty based entirely off of level-based elligibility. (I don’t know what I just said, but it fits in…)

The PvE content is saturated with plenty of quests and exploration opportunities and won’t leave you without anything to do. The main storyline is typical of Elder Scrolls, and has a few twists that you could see coming from about a mile away. I won’t spoil the story for those of you who are genuinely interested in playing the game, though.

Aside from the primary storyline, you also have the faction-specific storylines as well, and also the Fighters Guild, Mages Guild, and the Undaunted questlines. Then there are region-specific quests and quest lines -- most of which have story tied into them. Each major town and village on your map will have a questline related to it. Like I said, this pretty much saturates the game with plenty of quests for you to do. Exploration ties into this as you have to go out and actually look for these places in order to be able to do the quests for them. Generally if you follow the roads, you’ll find some good questing hubs appropriate to your level. You'll also have plenty of public dungeons.

The public dungeons, however, do have a massive flaw -- in that, being public-access with a boss at the end of them, there is bound to be folks farming that boss. In most of the starting zones' public dungeons, you'll get a lot of these. Most of them are blatant bots, but others are there to farm for potions, soul gems, or the rare blue-gear drops.

Group dungeons are an entirely different affair from modern MMOs. The "holy trinity" of Tank, DPS, and Healer is still in the game, if slightly altered. For the first time through, the first dungeon for your faction will be extremely difficult if you stick with the known ideas of MMO group mechanics. Here, tanks are only expected to deal with the larger enemies while the DPS deals with the mobs surrounding them. It all boils down to your personal skill level. Movement is key, as well as utilizing all combat mechanics the game has taught you. I've had more fun running through dungeons in ESO than I have in any other MMO, to be completely honest, mostly due to its complexity and depth.

Character development in this game focuses more on what you want your character to be, rather than build your character based on the pre-conceived notions of your determined class. For example, as a Dragonknight (which many may perceive as the plate-wearing Tank/DPS) can be specialized into using the Restoration Staff and Light Armor to provide healing, or can be specced into being a walking nuke wearing plate with the Destruction Staff tree. The choices are limitless, leaving you to decide what you want your character to be. There will, most certainly, be optimal builds but for the entirety of the game you're encouraged to build your character how you want to build them.

I should also point out the pacing of leveling. The game encourages you to take your time to reach the level cap (which is level 50, and then ten "Veteran Rank" levels). I like this in an MMO, as it not only makes it feel like the money you spent was worth the time put into the game, but you don't set yourself up for disappointment when you reach the end-game so quickly that you're basically left all alone. This is an aspect that I really sort of missed from MMOs, where the drive was the enjoy the game rather than rush to the end-game. A current trend in many MMOs is to allow players to farm dungeon queues, which gives out massive experience bonuses for being in a group, and for completing the dungeons with very little actual effort. In ESO, dungeon runs only give out a plethora of experience for the first run through and the completion of its quests -- afterwards, the only point of running that same dungeon over and over again would be to gather crafting materials, farm for rare gear, but certainly not to grind out experience points. Many will cry over this, but this is probably one of the most crucial things about this game with it being an MMO -- it discourages dungeon farming for quick and easy levels, thus forcing players to find other means to do so. It should be pointed out that you're still playing an MMORPG, here. You should be enjoying the rest of the content instead of forcing yourself to grind EXP just to reach the end-game.

PvP in this game harkens back to the days of Dark Age of Camelot with massive Realm-vs-Realm-vs-Realm campaigns that last 90 days each. Cyrodiil is its own zone that you can teleport in and out of (if using the queue system for it isn’t cool enough for you) at-will to join the fight going on. Battles can get pretty big when you’re comparing it to modern MMOs. The end-game PvP goal is simple: Control the Imperial City’s forts, become the Emperor. Becoming Emperor takes a lot of skill and dedication, as only those who occupy the top ranks of the leaderboards for each campaign will get the honor -- and only if they’re online at the time their faction captures the six keeps surrounding the Imperial City. Problems I’m facing right now in PvP is the lack of balancing. For my campaign, Wabbajack, the Daggerfall Covenant (which is comprised of the Bretons, Orcs, and Redguard) is more than often dominating the entire map during the twilight hours of the morning when no one in the Aldmeri Dominion (High Elves, Wood Elves, Khajiit) and the Ebonheart Pact (Nords, Argonians, and Dark Elves) is online.

If PvP isn’t your thing in the PvP zone, you can adventure around and search for some Skyshards--

Oh yeah, I completely forgot about the Skyshards. Well, they’re pretty important. Exploration is encouraged to find them, and most are tucked away inside public and instanced dungeons. Collecting three gives you one skill point. So, leveling from 1 - 50 gets you a Skill Point for every level, then there are the ten Veteran levels which I think give you one skill point for each level. Then there are the ludicrous amounts of Skyshards peppered throughout the game’s numerous zones. Also add to this the fact that leveling up your PvP rank also gets you Skill Points with each level-up -- AND Cyrodiil has a plethora of Skyshards, alone. There’s a respecialization system in-place, but you’re probably not going to use it. It costs 100g for every point you’ve spent in your character’s career. That gets ludicrously expensive in the higher levels if you’re not satisfied with how you built your character. Thankfully, you’re given more than enough skill points in your adventures that it really doesn’t matter.

Now, the only real issue I have with the game stems from its social interaction features. Unfortunately, as is mostly the case for modern MMOs today, the game has no chat bubbles. Many of you will think this a non-issue, but I should point out the following: I am a roleplayer. I take part in the roleplay communities of just about every MMO released to date. As a matter of fact, I won’t stick long with a game if its roleplaying is either non-existent or completely shut-in to the point where even becoming a part of it is too much effort. Compared to everything else that this game needs, though, chat bubbles are such a little thing. The game needs a better report function to get rid of those nasty bots, a change that shows character names instead of account names in guild chat (without the use of addons), a global auction house system that doesn’t require being in a guild, and a variety of other things.

Speaking of which, now to discuss the principles of economy in this game. Essentially, it’s all player-driven. The Auction House system that prevails in just about every MMO to date is changed be be more guild-focused in an attempt to encourage more player interaction in order to swap trade goods, equipment, or a variety of other valuable things. Auction House trading is confined to guilds with more than fifty members in their rosters, called the “Guild Store.” This, as a result, has encouraged the rise of a lot of different “trading guilds” with their own centralized economies and price fluctuations. However, this does very little to discourage up-front and personal trading -- though it’s highly recommended to look for one of the large trading guilds as soon as possible.
That all being said, the game definitely isn’t without its flaws. The combat system could use a lot of improvement. They did a lot to fix the “floaty” animations since the beta -- it definitely feels like there’s impact whenever you’re using certain weapons. They added in a first-person mode that would function well in combat if they would ever add an FOV slider and true collision with NPCs, other players, and so on -- however, as it is right now I can’t really get the hang of first-person view due to most fights being extremely hectic and disorienting.

One of the more obvious problems with this game is the amount of bugs -- some of them not very game-breaking, others that outright block/prevent progression in critical quests. Zenimax Online Studios is, however, very quick on responding to these and getting fixes out for them as soon as they can -- for what seems to be a lot of folks, though, that doesn’t seem to be quick enough.

Would I recommend this game, though? I absolutely would, if you spend a lot of time playing MMOs and are a fan of the Elder Scrolls series as a whole. Forget about the opinions you’ve read from cynics during the beta phase of the game and try it out for yourself, if you’re willing to spend the money on it.

I can tell you honestly that I went into the game without any expectations and now I’m currently sitting on a total of four days, twenty-three hours of played time (combined playtime since the start of the five-day early access) with a level 31 Dragonknight of the Ebonheart Pact. I’m enjoying the pacing of the leveling content and the amount of polish the game has as a whole. There are obvious bugs, here and there -- some of them preventing progression in quests -- but the overall package has proven to be one of the smoothest, most engrossing MMO experiences I’ve had the pleasure of playing in recent memory.

Two important quests in the first region for the Ebonheart Pact (Nord, Dunmer, and Argonian faction) were bugged to where an essential mob for each must be spawned -- which they weren't doing. I'm sure there were multitudes of other bugs that I had yet to see.

Other than this, though, the first day of playing Elder Scrolls Online was a blast. I had fun romping around the northeastern part of Tamriel as my Argonian Dragonknight. I managed to get a taste of the PvP, but in the end I felt like I couldn't make a big enough contribution because I didn't have a mount while all of my guild mates were riding around on horses.

The gameplay feels solid. Its action-oriented style is actually pretty satisfying to grasp and is a welcome change to the macro-heavy gameplay style that is prevalent in modern MMOs (Even though there are still macro-based abilities. This is an MMO, after all). Everything is limited by how much Magicka and Stamina you have -- in true Elder Scrolls fashion -- and very few abilities actually have cooldowns before you can use them. Any class can heal, so long as they have a Restoration Staff (and can even level their healing abilities with enough use). You can build your character however you want, but there will be optimal builds for your class and chosen weapon. The freedom of character development, though, is still pretty true to the Elder Scrolls formula.

They do reuse some graphical assets from TESV: Skyrim. However, this doesn't take away from the fact that you're in an entirely different time, fighting in an entirely different war, on a much larger scale. Each zone is pretty in its own right. Morrowind, itself, took me back to when I played its corresponding game. You can't go to Vvardenfel or Solstheim (as of yet) but the rest of Morrowind looks gorgeous and bleak at the same time.

UPDATE: If the first dungeon is to provide a basis for the quality and difficulty of the game's content, then I have to say: Holy crap. It wasn't difficult, but it was definitely a challenge to run through the first time. Aggro management for tanking is very different in this game than it is in modern MMOs. If you specialized your points into the One Handed and Shield skill line, then you have all of your tools right there to maintain aggro -- but given that this is a twitch-based action MMO first and a macro-based MMO second, it's difficult to do so. I absolutely love the difficulty, though. It will require players to know how to truly play the game. If you're used to WoW, leave what you know right at the door and enter this game with a fresh minset for your playing style, because knowledge of PvE through WoW will not save you.

On the social side, you're playing on one massive server broken into different instances for overflow. You can join up to five guilds (but I think you're limited to only creating one guild. I'm not sure, I haven't tested it out) and be able to represent each each separately while in PvP. It'll work great for those communities that have multiple chapters intent on playing this game (Like, say, a chapter purely for PvE content, for PvP -- or hell, even for Roleplaying). However, players go by their @Username handle rather than their character names in the social windows -- which is slightly bothersome, but easily manageable. It does require a bit more communication and coordination to know your guild members.

For my honest opinions, though: As much as I enjoyed this game, I really worry about its future success. Let's be real, here, it has some massive shoes to fill. Not only is it the series' first entry into the MMO scene, but it's also a pretty prestigious series on its own -- and not to mention that it's being thrown against titans of the MMO industry (WoW being the obvious one that everyone is going to compare it to). The first month will see big numbers and multitudes of people doing everything there is to do in ESO, mostly out of love for the series. Then, after the first month is up, many will leave either out of boredom or because they can't afford the subscription. It's the standard MMO affair. It's the main reason why games like SW:TOR, DCUO, Warhammer, Age of Conan, and AION tanked so quickly and went Free-to-Play. Not because they were inherently bad games, but because they were either not what the fans expected, or they didn't offer enough content to hold players beyond the initial leveling experience.

So now Elder Scrolls Online is the newest incarnation of this business model -- a Pay-to-Play MMO with a base purchase price of $59.99 ($79.99 for the ability to play an Imperial, put any race into any faction, and buy a Horse for 1 gold when starting) and a monthly subscription of $14.99. For the average MMO gamer, today, this is a pretty hefty price tag. For this reason, many won't go on past the first month. Some others won't pay subscription as if out of "principle" -- if I'm being honest here, this is probably out of being spoiled by "higher quality" free-to-play games. If we're using previous MMOs as examples, there will only be a relatively small community after the first month. Thankfully, with the Mega-Server functionality the game runs, this won't seem too bad until you get into the PvP.

Truthfully, I prefer the subscription model over the Free-to-Play or Buy-to-Play everyone seems to clamor for, these days. I really think that subscribing to a FTP game makes it better, anyway, so what's the difference? The lack of microtransactions is really all there is between a subscription-based game and a free-to-play game, and I would take no microtransactions any day of the week over a game that's heavy with them.

So, all in all, what do I think about the game? I think it's great. I'm having fun with it. It's definitely a game I would like to keep a subscription with, if only to support the development team and to hope for good content updates. I'm going to take my time leveling (as I should probably do for all MMOs) so that I'm not rushing to the end-game just to be (potentially) disappointed. I would really recommend this game to anyone who's interested in the Elder Scrolls series. If you're willing to spend the money, please do so.

I think I'm going to go up against "public opinion" on this one, because I just find the whole concept to be fascinating. For those who are not in the know, "Project Christine" is an experiemental program by Razer to make a modular computer available to people who pay a hefty subscription. Naturally it's caused a fuss in the PC gaming community (although, how much of one I'm not entirely sure). We've got anti-Razer fans and die-hard Razer fans fighting in the streets like when Vancouver lost to the Boston Bruins for the 2011 Stanley Cup.

Or something like that. 

I'm, of course, exaggerating, but the first point I'm trying to get to is this: It's no secret that Razer products are, above-all, overpriced for what their overall functionality is. Personal opinion will always overcome public opinion, though, so just remember that your experience with a Razer product will be different from someone with the same product. I, myself, have had several Razer products over the years -- currently, I'm typing out this blog on the Razer Anansi, I use the most recent Naga 2014 model on top of the Razer Vespula mousepad, and I have a Razer Orbweaver sitting on the other side of the keyboard. I've personally owned a Razer Naga for a little under four years (I bought the original model in summer of 2010) and that particular model had not failed me until it was replaced -- and even to this day, it still works.

That all being said, let's actually talk about the subject of this blog: Project Christine. What is it? It's basically a modular computer with its parts housed in liquid-cooled compartments that you can then connect to a slim, central unit. The way that it's going to work, I can surmise, is that through paying a hefty subscription fee you will be able to own a "decent gaming computer" without actually having to pay upfront for the full cost of a mid-range PC (which is around $700 - $1200 USD). They haven't really released full details on how this is going to work, but I'm optimistic; the point of the whole thing is to bring affordable, high-end PC gaming to those who can't build a computer of their own due to financial reasons (or even pure laziness). Asking a huge subscription fee of around, maybe, $200 USD might be pushing it a little, but since they haven't released any sort of details all we can do is just speculate.

I want to talk about the attractiveness of this approach, though. I'm currently working a minimum wage job and am going to school. My system, right now, is an ASUS G74Sx ROG laptop (a three-year old model, at this point) which runs an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M graphics card. It still runs very well to this day, but I need to replace it soon with a new computer -- because I can't upgrade anything on this laptop, and I want to be able to play all of my games at their graphical apex. Well, that, and I'm running into serious performance issues. However, even with my job I cannot come close to being able to afford a brand new setup. The closest I can come won't be for another two months of saving my money, and even then I have to give my brother $300 USD a month for living expenses. Needless to say, it becomes exceedingly difficult to save money for a computer that I will eventually need out of necessity.

This is why Project Christine is so attractive to me -- and not just the name, itself. I can't afford to buy all of the parts of a computer on my own, but having a modular PC with easy-to-swap components only through the cost of a monthly subscription? Sign me up, please, but just as long as the subscription price is affordable. I can handle $50 - $75 USD a month for a computer, but that brings me to my next point.

It's highly likely that the subscription price will be beyond ridiculous. In fact, with what you're getting out of it, I'm counting on it. If anything, the model might be dependent on the parts you choose -- like, higher-end graphics cards will (undoubtedly) bring up the price

Even still, no matter what anyone's opinions on it are, it's still a very ambitious project that I really hope comes through, despite public opinion. I'm looking forward to seeing what might come of it.

PC Gamer just recently posted an article on Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick and his statement pertaining to the success of MMOs and whether or not they would succeed because of being published in the United States, or internationally published.

You can read the article here: PC Gamer Article.

Now here are my thoughts: It's not that MMO's "don't work" in the United States, it's the complete lack of innovation that cause gamers in the United States, who are all more than familiar with having too much of one thing, to lose interest quickly if something does not feature anything that they had not already gotten. I would say it's probably one of the major reasons as to why World of Warcraft has been so successful, and Everquest before that. They were the games that had set industry standards by being innovative titles on their own.

Now, MMORPGs are held to the same standards that World of Warcraft, itself, has set and, unfortunately, if they don't exceed, or even meet, these standards they're doomed to fail. Once again, this is due to developers refusing to innovate. They all want to play it safe, believing that doing so will guarantee at least moderate success -- and then being absolutely shocked that their game is not as successful as they had hoped. 

This was a problem with Star Wars: The Old Republic. It was a fresh image, it had a lot of promises, and it featured a player-specific story arc that each class dives into from the very beginning -- unfortunately, that was all it offered. The game played and felt too much like World of Warcraft, and it bled in subscriptions as players who were tired of the same formula left the game. Only true die-hards played the game, but it wasn't enough to sustain profit. They've seen more success from going free-to-play, but I haven't personally played since a few months after release, so I wouldn't know right now.

Then there's Age of Conan, and Warhammer: Age of Reckoning. Everyone thought that these games would seem some modicum of success, and had a lot going for them. Age of Conan brought to the table a more player-driven experience rather than keeping everything on rails, and Warhammer featured massive PvP environments -- then when the games released, they failed to meet the expectations. Warhammer felt too much like World of Warcraft (although, admittedly, their PvP was something to envy). I don't know what happened to Age of Conan, quite honestly; I just know that it wasn't what a lot of its players were hoping for.

Now we come to the last few years, and out of all of the games that were released recently, Guild Wars 2 was the only one that has, so far, seen its fair share of success. It truely aspired to innovate, revamping many different gameplay mechanics that are, currently, very outdated. It improved movement controls to make everything based on reflex rather than mashing buttons. It did away with the "holy trinity" of MMOs (Tanks, Healers, and Damage Dealers) that has "plagued" the industry for the past decade. It's obvious, however, that the game focuses more on PvP, as it offers very little in terms of PvE end-game content, but the fact remains that Guild Wars 2 has tried, and so far has been very successful with its "buy-to-play" formula.

So it's not that MMOs don't succeed in the US. If there were any thought put into gameplay design beyond what has already been tried and true, we would have seen more successful MMOs in the recent years. Developers just have to strive to innovate, to bring new things to the table that would bring players in, and keep them. Too much of the same thing will drive players away. (Though this is only true in some cases...)