Elder Scrolls Online: Too Much Beta

In my post earlier today, I pointed out Ripard’s abrupt disenchantment with Elder Scrolls in his last few months of blogging.  As I stated there, I think a lot of it was basically a case of Too Much Beta.  I was not able to participate heavily int he beta due to my slow internet and inability to get the client downloaded until about halfway through each beta session I was invited to.  In retrospect, I’m glad of this – I didn’t get tired of the game prior to it coming out.

Ripard is not the only person I think this happened to – Isarii, at Tamriel Foundry did something similar.. he was invited to the continuous beta, and after giving the game an excellent comprehensive review in February, stating at the end: “It is addicting, and it’s addicting in a way that I haven’t felt from an MMO in a very long time. No, it doesn’t grab you right away – and that’s a problem we’re seeing from a lot of the reviewers who didn’t get very far – but once the game opens up, there’s actually a lot to like, and that, for me, is the spark that lights my hope for the game’s success.”

Now, that’s exactly how I feel about the game, but bear in mind this was written on February 14th; 2 months less 1 day prior to release.  Isarii, as a major element of the staff at Tamriel Foundry at that time, had significant contact with ZOS at various events, and was a continuous beta player.  I know this because he also joined my corporation – Thrall Nation – in EVE, having just started that game, and then left again precisely because of continuous beta.

A little over a month later, he left Tamriel Foundry as a staff member (and mostly as a poster), and posted on his blog why he was done with Elder Scrolls Online.

This stands in stark contrast to his review of a month earlier.  I think some of his concerns are more valid than others – in particular, I don’t think ESO is that buggy, nor was it at launch, mainly because I have yet to see an MMO that wasn’t fairly buggy at launch, and quite a few of them retain some long-standing bugs that never get fixed.  I think getting the bugs out of a game designed to run on thousands of computers around the world with no quality control over the hardware or software of the clients is a much harder task than most of us appreciate.  There’s a level of unacceptable bugginess Vanguard: Saga of Heros, for example) but ESO never hit it.

His complaint of dishonesty, near the end, is a little more valid (mainly because of the sale of mounts) but even there it really falls into the realm of different interpretations.  Technically, mounts and pets are found in the game, but like he says, they’re minor.  I chalk that up to Paul Sage making an ill-advised absolute statement, not lying.

His feelings as to whether they are transitioning to free-to-play, and intended to all along.. I don’t know.  He had access to more information than I.

Now, having talked with him extensively, I know that Isarii is not a stupid man, nor dishonest, nor a malcontent.  He is, however, very straightforward and blunt, particularly towards people that are not using good reasoning, or ARE malcontents, dishonest, or stupid.

He’s not immune, however, from normal human emotions, and I think that the feeling of suddenly having to pay for something he already played, with no new content for at least 6 weeks, became too much.  I think the same thing happened to Ripard.

This is a growing issue with the MMO community in general – “I want the game, but I don’t want to pay”.  Isarii was never a FTP or BTP advocate – like me, he advocated for subscription – but the reality is that it’s much easier to go from paid to free than the other way around.  Free games don’t go to subscription.

If you played the beta though, that’s exactly what happened to a lot of players.  ESO is not the first game to have a beta, but it does seem to have included a lot more players doing a lot more testing.  It’s paid off in some ways – bugs are dying in droves – but it’s also gotten a lot of strong community members tired of it before it even went live.  Some might say that’s lack of content, but there’s no lack of that, nor a lack of pvp oppurtunity.  What there is, is simply an unwillingness to do the same thing over paid that one did free.

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