Veteran Content Improvements & PTS Open

eso vr contentESO’s Community Manager Jessica Folsom has confirmed that the PTS will be open for everyone in the coming updates. You should be able to download the PTS via the launcher even as we speak. Prior to this, only a select group of testers were able to get on the PTS.

Another interesting bit of news is that Zenimax is planning on changing the way veteran content & late character progression plays out. This is a very polarizing subject, and I’m sure many of you have your own opinion about the veteran content & veteran levelling. In general many people feel that the veteran content & getting to the level cap takes too long. The difficulty of VR content has also been a hot topic.

Personally I don’t see these as issues, but there are a couple of things about VR content that I’m going to address.

Veteran Content difficulty

I see people talk about the game’s difficulty all the time. The higher veteran rank zones can be demanding, and are tough to solo. A build you used for level 20 zones is suddenly no longer viable, because you can get killed in literally one hit. The difficulty ramps up very quickly and the game punishes you for your mistakes.

I’m fine with this. It forces you to think and play around with your build and gear. You may have to swap skills constantly depending on the fight you’re about to face.

The Mage’s Guild skill Fire Rune with the knockback morph and Defensive Stance from One Handed and Shield skill line have been my best buddies. Defensive Stance’s spell reflect makes casters completely irrelevant. It’s not even funny how easy any mob with a staff becomes, world / dungeon bosses included. Feels a bit like cheating, but I’ll gladly give them some payback.

The point is that if you weren’t used to blocking, dodging and interrupting, you better get used to it by now. You don’t want to let a tough mob land a special attack on you, because there’s a good chance you’ll just die. Some form of CC is almost mandatory, be it a knockback or a stun, and a way to heal yourself — for me it’s the restoration staff — is essential in veteran zones.

The VR content combat does require a lot of attention. You can’t let your guard down. If you fail to block a single knife throw, you can easily die.

The time to reach the level cap

First of all, I think it’s fair to say that for a modern *western* MMO, it takes a pretty long time to reach the level cap in ESO. This isn’t a problem for me, but many of my friends who started playing the game (and are not new to MMOs) never made it to the level cap. The journey to VR10 (and now to VR12) took too long, and it intimidated them. A few of them lost motivation just because of this. They enjoyed the game, but the time investment to get to end game was too great for them.

Another point to be made is that Craglorn wasn’t available at launch. If it took very little time to reach the level cap, many more people would have ended up just waiting for the zone to be released. The rush-to-end-game syndrome. I’m sure there are a great number of players who ran into this situation anyway, but if the level cap was 50, this would no doubt have been a much bigger issue. Because of how long it takes to reach the level cap, Craglorn not being available at launch was not a problem.

For a player who chooses to go through all of the alliance zones and quests, the level cap is essentially 150. Of course this is not how the levels actually work, but the time it takes to complete each alliance story line is roughly the same, hence the comparison. The first 50 levels you spend in your own alliance zones and Coldharbour, the next 50 (or 5 Veteran Ranks) in the 50+ alliance and the remaining 50 (5 VRs) in the 50++ alliance zones (or, if you really cared about reaching the level cap, you completed your own alliance story, a couple of zones from the 50+ content, and then abused the VR Darkshade Caverns experience exploit to hit VR10 as quickly as possible. And yes, it has been fixed now).

Again, for me personally this is not an issue, but it definitely requires you to get into a different mindset. I think you’ll have a much more fun time in ESO if you focus on the journey rather than what’s at the end of the road. Obviously for an MMO and its longevity it’s pretty important what happens at the end of the journey, because that’s the end game, but I still think ESO is a game you do not want to rush.

Veteran Content should feel more meaningful

I think this is something that has surprised many players — the game is nowhere near over in terms of levelling after Molag Bal has been defeated & Nirn has been saved. Instead, Cadwell casually asks you to go through the story again. And then again.

This is what bothers me personally. Don’t get me wrong. I really do want to explore all of the zones in the game & see all the stories. I’m not a massive fan of the way it is done now, though. A hero is forced to start over in a new & strange faction, fighting against your very own alliance.

It’s certainly a unique and an interesting way to add more content to the levelling part of the game, but at the same time, I’d rather explore the other alliance content on an alt. It feels like the levelling part needlessly drags on. It also seems like an artificial way to create more content, but more importantly it kills some of the replay value. You have already seen the story & quests on your main character, why would you roll an alt on another faction? The only answer I can think of here is playing another class, which is of course a very valid reason. But having a new story to play through would be a pretty big bonus to me.

What changes / improvements can we expect?

Now that Zenimax has officially stated they are planning on improving / changing the VR content & levelling, what kind of changes can we realistically expect?

I doubt anyone, not even Zenimax have a clear answer at this point. If players feel the content is way too difficult, it will be tuned down. I see this as being the biggest change they might make in the future. “Play the way you want to play” is arguably not true for higher level content. The only way to make mediocre, but perhaps fun builds viable in VR content is to make the content easier.

I already expressed how I feel about the difficulty; I think it’s fine. However, this is an easy way to fix a lot of the VR frustration for a great number of players.

We are already seeing experience buffs. Since the latest patch, you receive more than double the amount of experience for killing mobs. It should be easy to tweak the experience gains and make it quicker to advance in veteran content.

These are fairly easy and straightforward tweaks which I can see happening in the future. I’d love to be surprised, though!