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[Column] Elder Scrolls Online: Bad as I Want to Be

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,588MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Many MMOs these days seem to pigeonhole players into being good and pitting them against evil to save the world. But sometimes being bad is just, well, good. In our latest Elder Scrolls Online column, we take a look at that notion. See what we have to say before unchaining your inner bad boy in the comments.

But why is that so important?  Because, despite the direct questline through all of the Elder Scrolls games’ narrative, there was always an element of freedom that couldn’t be marked by just saying “well you can shape your character’s stats, and go wherever you want.”  The freedom to act was and is just as important as the freedom to build your character’s abilities. If ESO leaves this part out? It won’t quite truly capture what makes the Elder Scrolls series so special. 

Read more of Bill Murphy's Elder Scrolls Online: Bad as I Want to Be.

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
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Comments

  • adam_noxadam_nox hays, KSPosts: 2,035Member Uncommon

    Actually Skyrim changed this a lot.  It became a quest driven game where you almost always have just one way to finish the quest, the 'right' way.  Add to that the fact that any npc you might want to murder is unkillable, and it's one of the more dissapointing aspects of the game.  Somehow I hope they revert in the next installment.

  • azzamasinazzamasin Butler, OHPosts: 3,066Member Uncommon
    Same here, really hoping I can play that Chaotic Neutral I always envisioned my characters to be.  Looking out for Numero uno!

    Sandbox means open world, non-linear gaming PERIOD!

    Subscription Gaming, especially MMO gaming is a Cash grab bigger then the most P2W cash shop!

    Bring Back Exploration and lengthy progression times. RPG's have always been about the Journey not the destination!!!

    image

  • DeanGreyDeanGrey Fresno, CAPosts: 154Member

    Excellent points. I can't play a character without some thought being put into what he/she would and wouldn't do. Sure, sometimes they compramise their morals (or lack of) but it is always for a reason. That occasional moment when a truely evil man does something good or when a good guy decides to steal to get ahead. Even Bethesda knows this happens, the Knights of the Nine DLC for Oblivion was an oppertunity for evil doers to redeem themselves.

    My latest character in Skyrim is inspired by witch hunters of Warhammer. He tends to kill anyone who even hints that they will do something evil, and perhaps their extended family for good measure.

  • azzamasinazzamasin Butler, OHPosts: 3,066Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by adam_nox

    Actually Skyrim changed this a lot.  It became a quest driven game where you almost always have just one way to finish the quest, the 'right' way.  Add to that the fact that any npc you might want to murder is unkillable, and it's one of the more dissapointing aspects of the game.  Somehow I hope they revert in the next installment.

     

    Almost all NPC's are killable except for the main storyline guys (with rare exceptions).  Still though, Skyrim offers more structure and as much is my favorite in the series.  Oblivion and Morrowind were installed and uninstalled within 1 month for me.  Skyrim has managed to retain my attention for a year and a half now of very casual play.  Usually once or twice a week I still play and msotly becasue of the structure the quests provides.

    Sandbox means open world, non-linear gaming PERIOD!

    Subscription Gaming, especially MMO gaming is a Cash grab bigger then the most P2W cash shop!

    Bring Back Exploration and lengthy progression times. RPG's have always been about the Journey not the destination!!!

    image

  • rygard49rygard49 Huntington Beach, CAPosts: 975Member

    The single player games were never very murky about what you were doing. I don't recall any tough decisions as far as right or wrong, you basically always knew where something landed on the morality map.

    Games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, even Fallout, highlighted walking the moral line, but Elder Scrolls is fairly black and white as far as games go, and the guild quests always followed a set path with very little deviation or choice for the character. Either you killed the evil mage or you don't advance in the Fighers Guild.

    So, I'll have to disagree with your assessment that the 'feel' of the game would be off without the moral ambiguity. Not to say that I wouldn't greatly enjoy some tough choices throughout the quest line, though!

  • SovrathSovrath Boston Area, MAPosts: 18,453Member Uncommon

    As for the single player games, the quests are pretty much "good or evil". One can role play an evil quest for the good but for the most part they are pretty much one way or another.

    Having said that, away from the quests, one can role play however you want. For isntance, in skyrim I have a character that is a Tempar/Paladin character that is blind to the details and the end justifies the means. Always working for "the greater good" but has will do things that might seem iffy if the outcome is good. This is my "joan of arc" type of character. I also have a character that "does what needs to be done" even if he doesn' tlike it but for the most part tries to always be "good".

    I then have a completely evil vampire character who was caught at dragon bridge trying to attack a citizen and ended up decimating the town.

    I wish they would bring back the ability to kill major characters like Morrowind.

     

  • ego13ego13 Reno, NVPosts: 267Member
    Originally posted by azzamasin
    Same here, really hoping I can play that Chaotic Neutral I always envisioned my characters to be.  Looking out for Numero uno!

    Sadly, one more RP'er that doesn't understand that Chaotic Neutral is actually a clinically insane psychopath.  

     

    Sorry for the tangent just a big pet peave.

     

    On topic, doubtful that they'll allow much in regards to anything that affects the world.  I think everyone has a bit too much faith in what they're expecting from the game vs what will be produced.  In the end unless they have so much phasing that the world is rarely the same for anyone (which would be AMAZING) then they can't really do this.  

     

    Actually, that would really be amazing and not that hard to introduce.  If every players actions changed their world for them.  Everyone could have their own "phase" and when you grouped you basically entered the group leaders phase.  Could also help alleviate griefing and pretty much ALL of the negatives of having an online game and allowing people to make such radical decisions.

     

    **edit**

    Could then be touted as the first MMO where you truly shape your own game and also have the ability to bring other players into and through YOUR version of the game.

    Just because every car has similar features doesn't mean that Ferraris are copies of Model Ts. Progress requires failure and refining.

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  • greywolf2002greywolf2002 ViveiroPosts: 17Member

    Developers are becoming lazier and cheaper every year that passes, so it is unlikely they will include something like this anymore.

     

    "Nah man, that's too much work and it doesn't sell games like graphics and almost-nude women. Let's give those guys some pretty crap to look at and that's all, they are gonna buy it, anyway, so why bother?"

  • rygard49rygard49 Huntington Beach, CAPosts: 975Member
    Originally posted by Cirin
    Originally posted by azzamasin
    Same here, really hoping I can play that Chaotic Neutral I always envisioned my characters to be.  Looking out for Numero uno!

    Sadly, one more RP'er that doesn't understand that Chaotic Neutral is actually a clinically insane psychopath.  

     

    Sorry for the tangent just a big pet peave.

    You're thinking Chaotic Evil...

  • ego13ego13 Reno, NVPosts: 267Member
    Originally posted by rygard49
    Originally posted by Cirin
    Originally posted by azzamasin
    Same here, really hoping I can play that Chaotic Neutral I always envisioned my characters to be.  Looking out for Numero uno!

    Sadly, one more RP'er that doesn't understand that Chaotic Neutral is actually a clinically insane psychopath.  

     

    Sorry for the tangent just a big pet peave.

    You're thinking Chaotic Evil...

    Chaotic neutrals are completely random and unpredictable. They may shift allegiances at a moment's notice, or remain with a leader for years. The chaotic neutral character feels that there is no plan at all for the universe. Things just happen. They tend to believe in luck and chance, rather than fate or destiny. They don't care what happens to others, yet will not necessarily go out of their way to harm others. If someone stands in the way of their happiness, they may kill that individual or move on to something else. Their priorities tend to change as they experience new things in life. They may even appear to adhere to another alignment for some length of time, only to switch at an inappropriate moment. They can be the worst tricksters, conning people, not for gain, but for sheer amusement. The chaotic neutral may not be driven by fame or wealth, but may only take actions just to see what happens.

    Just because every car has similar features doesn't mean that Ferraris are copies of Model Ts. Progress requires failure and refining.

    image

  • KanuvinaKanuvina Lutz, FLPosts: 2Member
    The final paragraph on this article made me realize a new concern for this game - will there be achievements, and if so, how will they work? I am a completionist and I love working towards an achievement, but I feel if there is moral ambiguity and different paths, achievements should be handled differently in ESO than in, say, WoW. Maybe more focus on discovery (like in Warhammer), and less focus on completing a faction's quests, for example.
  • NobleNerdNobleNerd Wolcott, NYPosts: 671Member Uncommon

     The author of the post hit on something I feel we focus too much on in gaming and especially in MMOs...

    "One of the parts of the Elder Scrolls series that’s become so great at letting players lead their own noble or murky lives are the “Guilds”.  At launch, ESO will have the Fighters Guild and Mages Guild.  But what we’ll all be waiting to see enter the game is the Dark Brotherhood. But these sorts of content additions are pretty much either good or bad.  There’s little in between. Being an Assassin in the DB (ha!) isn’t exactly a fine moral line to walk. You kill your assigned targets and that’s that.  The key to ESO’s moral ambiguity will be in allowing players to decide to help or harm someone (or to ignore their request entirely) and to not be punished in terms of progression for doing so."

      We as developers, consumers, and players of MMOs have become so addicted to PROGRESSION (xp) that we forget there is other ways to reward players for playing a game. Honestly in some of my rpg games like Skyrim, Dragon Age, and (at times) GW2 leveling becomes a back seat to many other things in the game. In GW2 I stop and listen to random NPC voice conversations and explore the beautiful land around me. Skyrim and especially Morrowind I get lost in the world... I am not hunting for the next (!) to carry on my leveling fix. 

       I believe Zenimax/Bethesda or any other gaming company has a great chance to rewrite this part of gaming if they do it right. I for one am sick of my leveling and how fast or slow it goes determining whether a game is worth playing. I would love to see a game where the xp bar is not part of your main hud/ui of the game. 

    image

  • MardukkMardukk Posts: 1,556Member Uncommon
    This is one of the reasons I loved EQ1 so much.  I had the ability to kill my own town guards but I would pay the consequences with a large faction hit and eventually I wouldn't be allowed back in town.  I would be forced to go to the sewers etc...  This little bit of freedom is something that has been all but abandoned in recent MMO's.  Hopefully TESO will allow some form of freedom along these lines.  
  • BadSpockBadSpock Somewhere, MIPosts: 7,974Member
    Originally posted by Cirin
    Originally posted by rygard49
    Originally posted by Cirin
    Originally posted by azzamasin
    Same here, really hoping I can play that Chaotic Neutral I always envisioned my characters to be.  Looking out for Numero uno!

    Sadly, one more RP'er that doesn't understand that Chaotic Neutral is actually a clinically insane psychopath.  

     

    Sorry for the tangent just a big pet peave.

    You're thinking Chaotic Evil...

    Chaotic neutrals are completely random and unpredictable. They may shift allegiances at a moment's notice, or remain with a leader for years. The chaotic neutral character feels that there is no plan at all for the universe. Things just happen. They tend to believe in luck and chance, rather than fate or destiny. They don't care what happens to others, yet will not necessarily go out of their way to harm others. If someone stands in the way of their happiness, they may kill that individual or move on to something else. Their priorities tend to change as they experience new things in life. They may even appear to adhere to another alignment for some length of time, only to switch at an inappropriate moment. They can be the worst tricksters, conning people, not for gain, but for sheer amusement. The chaotic neutral may not be driven by fame or wealth, but may only take actions just to see what happens.

    I always reference-

    http://0-media-cdn.foolz.us/ffuuka/board/tg/image/1343/59/1343595701711.jpg

     

  • azzamasinazzamasin Butler, OHPosts: 3,066Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Cirin
    Originally posted by azzamasin
    Same here, really hoping I can play that Chaotic Neutral I always envisioned my characters to be.  Looking out for Numero uno!

    Sadly, one more RP'er that doesn't understand that Chaotic Neutral is actually a clinically insane psychopath.  

     

    Sorry for the tangent just a big pet peave.

     

    On topic, doubtful that they'll allow much in regards to anything that affects the world.  I think everyone has a bit too much faith in what they're expecting from the game vs what will be produced.  In the end unless they have so much phasing that the world is rarely the same for anyone (which would be AMAZING) then they can't really do this.  

     

    Actually, that would really be amazing and not that hard to introduce.  If every players actions changed their world for them.  Everyone could have their own "phase" and when you grouped you basically entered the group leaders phase.  Could also help alleviate griefing and pretty much ALL of the negatives of having an online game and allowing people to make such radical decisions.

     

    **edit**

    Could then be touted as the first MMO where you truly shape your own game and also have the ability to bring other players into and through YOUR version of the game.

    Chaotic Neutral is someone like Han Solo from New Hope, or Jack Sparrow from Pirates fame.  While some aspects of the Chaotic Neutral might be construed as physopaths, the majority of them are in fact anarchists, libertarian, Rebellious, Cynical but their main concern is with their own freedom.

     

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ChaoticNeutral

    Sandbox means open world, non-linear gaming PERIOD!

    Subscription Gaming, especially MMO gaming is a Cash grab bigger then the most P2W cash shop!

    Bring Back Exploration and lengthy progression times. RPG's have always been about the Journey not the destination!!!

    image

  • CelestianCelestian DFW, TXPosts: 1,151Member Uncommon

    "Many MMOs these days seem to pigeonhole players into being good and pitting them against evil to save the world."

     

    Many? Every MMO has a emo mode practically these days.

     

  • sunshadow21sunshadow21 Omaha, NEPosts: 354Member

    While I would agree that some of the quests in Skyrim do tend to be black and white, very few quests are actually required and quests don't give xp, they give a interesting new toy, or gold, or a new power. Therefore, you do have a fair amount of choice in the game as a whole on the morality scale because the body of quests you have that character complete is more important than any one quest or even quest line.

    That tends to be the factor missing in MMOs; not the fact the fact that the quests themselves are pretty straightforward, but the fact that the quests in Skyrim and earlier installments of the Elder Scrolls are largely optional; even the main quest line can be ignored to a large degree. In most MMO's today, they tend to become required just to get any advancement at all; this means that to build in any sense of morality, the quests become much harder to design; it would be much easier to find an way of advancing the character without tying advancement to quests, thus making quests a helpful, but not required part of the game. This is why I increasingly look to EVE as a solid model to build off of; there are "quests" for those that want that kind of structure, but character advancement is not tied to them.

  • LiieLiie Elmont, NYPosts: 7Member
    I personally think they worked the problem quite a bit, allowing you to kill who you want (bad) or save them all (Good) but, they still did not give you the Total Freedom we all desire, that ability to say what we want to an Npc, and end a quest the way we feel it should end. I agree, they really need to try and capture that "I am in control" feeling.
  • sunshadow21sunshadow21 Omaha, NEPosts: 354Member
    Originally posted by Liie
    I personally think they worked the problem quite a bit, allowing you to kill who you want (bad) or save them all (Good) but, they still did not give you the Total Freedom we all desire, that ability to say what we want to an Npc, and end a quest the way we feel it should end. I agree, they really need to try and capture that "I am in control" feeling.

    No MMO, or any computer game for that matter, is ever going to be able to give complete and total freedom, and they can never anticipate ever possible solution to a quest. A better approach is to make most quests short, optional, and give the player the feeling of being in control by letting them choose which quests they want to take and which ones they want to ignore. This should be true to some extent even in the main quest line; instead of having a single quest line, they need to have several potential quests at each step, each one of which allows you to progress to the next stage, with the specific path chosen affecting the final outcome. This solution keeps the quests themselves simple enough to be doable on the dev's end while still being more engaging on the player's end. The quests themselves are not, and have never really been, the problem; the current implementation of them is the actual problem.

  • jtcgsjtcgs New Port Richey, ILPosts: 1,777Member

    "we’ve known that the game won’t be a “sandbox”, but rather a theme park with large amounts of character building freedom. This is, quite honestly, right on par with the other Elder Scrolls games.":

    Enough already, if you like ducks, say you like ducks and stop calling ducks something else. The only people that say TES games are themepark games are those being PAID to do so and those willing to go to any length to get a DaoC remake. No amount of lies is going to change the minds of those that either never played DaoC, never liked DaoC and already know that an MMO can be made like a TES game and dont want just another freaking themepark based MMO...sure not going to change the minds of the people flooding every single TES site about how bad a move it was to make a TES game with closed factions, closed races and PvP behind an invisible wall while trying to make a game where the entire world is at war with each other...

    “I hope we shall crush...in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." ~Thomes Jefferson

  • ianashianash Clayton, NCPosts: 1Member
    Originally posted by Mardukk
    This is one of the reasons I loved EQ1 so much.  I had the ability to kill my own town guards but I would pay the consequences with a large faction hit and eventually I wouldn't be allowed back in town.  I would be forced to go to the sewers etc...  This little bit of freedom is something that has been all but abandoned in recent MMO's.  Hopefully TESO will allow some form of freedom along these lines.  

    These were the "good old days", glad someone else recalls them as fondly as I do. We can only hope to see a game as (relatively) ambitious as those first pioneers were. If EQ or UO were redone using today's technology, they would be mammoth blockbusters. ESO has the pedigree and more original lore than any other franchise. My fingers and toes are crossed. :)

  • BuckaramaBuckarama Des Moines, IAPosts: 48Member
    I am still playing SKyrim, ike 600 plus hours and counting. I know, I need to get a life. This should be cool. Looking forward to it.
  • FdzzaiglFdzzaigl Somewhere in nowherePosts: 2,316Member Uncommon

    I think the cool thing about storytelling in many TES games is that the story "emerged" from the gameplay: you sort of stumbled upon things while you were playing the game and took it from there, apart from the main quest that is.

    I definitely hope they'll succeed in bringing that into the MMO.

    Although I also find decisionmaking to be important, I don't find that the Elder Scrolls series have ever particularly excelled at delivering stories that took you deep into the alignment or character of the protagonist. It's always been "OK" to dick around and do no matter what and still end up being the champion who saves everything.  That's not a bad thing though, it's part of the series.

    Feel free to use my referral link for SW:TOR if you want to test out the game. You'll get some special unlocks!

  • acidbloodacidblood melbournePosts: 265Member Uncommon
    Dialog choices, that's what you call being bad... man one of the best bits of ES is being able to do things outside of pre-defined 'choice'. See some guy wondering down the road with a nice looking hat, wait till your alone and stick a dagger in his back... sure he might have been some quest NPC, but you've got a nice hat so who cares. Sorry, but not matter how many layers of ES inspired paint they tip onto this thing it's just never going to feel like a an ES game to me.
  • eric_w66eric_w66 North Richland Hills, TXPosts: 1,006Member

    The problem with these 'gray area' choices is that game developers tend to OVER DO it. I'm almost never faced with a conundrum that leaves me scratching my head wondering what I should do in reality. But in the game, my character is forced all the time to make questionable calls...

     

    Worst offender for this was the RPG for the Legend of the 5 Rings. Every module would present players with 'do the honorable thing' or 'do the right thing'. They were never the same thing, and this frustrated my players to no extent. They WANTED to be heroes, but the game's modules never let them. There never was (when I played at the beginning at least) a nice, relaxing 'Go slay that demon that is terrorizing the people, and be rewarded by the lord for your bravery!'

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