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The Balancing Act: Content Expansion Part 2
by Terminus Zaire, Contributor — Category: Editorials
Post #47582
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The Balancing Act will be released prior to the Beta and once the NDA is lifted to discuss issues that will arise if The Elder Scrolls Online is designed with an imbalance in one particular aspect of the game, and how this will ultimately affect the entire game play as a whole. This series will discuss the warning signs of these imbalances, and what Zenimax can do to reverse or minimize the impact of the results of them.

It's suggested that everyone first read The Balancing Act: Content Expansion Part One before reading this article!

While last week’s article discussed the difficulties of simply adding in new areas to TESO, this week takes a deeper look at the implications of adding new content to those areas over the course of months and even years. While it may seem easy to know what to fill new areas with, it can be a challenge to understand what players in the community want, and what should be done to meet thier requests. Multiple factors need to be analyzed including the changes of expected play time, difficulty in leveling or completing quests, rewards provided by quests, and even the resources required for development. Ultimately the addition of new content into the game will result in the complete success or failure of the entire MMO, making it one of the most important topics to be discussed!

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One of the first results that content releases can have over the life of an MMO is manipulation in the time expectancy to reach the player level cap. While it may seem like adding more content will obviously increase how long you’ll play, it can sometimes have adverse effects by increasing experience gain for lower levels. An example of this could be the addition of a new 2 hour quest series that unlocks a new method of transportation. This method of transportation could allow for all subsequent quests to be completed approximately 10 minutes faster than normal by reducing travel time. If the new quest series was completed by a new player early in their TESO career, it may result in faster level capping than previously expected and a net loss of game content.

Many content developers identify potential problems such as this, and will enact level requirements to ensure that low-level players don’t receive end-game rewards. There have been level requirements present in previous Elder Scrolls games, although it was much harder to identify the exact requirements in Skyrim as compared to Oblivion. There’s a change that TESO quests may also have both skill requirements as well as combat level requirements, but very little discussion has occurred concerning these details. It will be interesting to note if quests will provide us with their requirements, or we’ll need to figure them out ourselves instead.

Another problem that Zenimax will need to face is if they choose to add additional content to progress from previously existing quests that will be released upon launch. Personal choice and phasing account for a huge portion of the game, and it becomes more and more difficult every time a new choice is added. Players who are group questing may be surprised to learn that they can no longer help each other due to a single choice that was made, such as choosing to let a NPC live or die. Expanding off a quest series requires Zenimax to take every possible choice into account, resulting in hundreds of potential scenarios that need to be designed and planned for. This can also include having two quest lines interact with each other, further multiplying the possible outcomes of the quests. One possibility is to simply have all endings re-converge to a singular point again, allowing for players to continue the series regardless of their choices made in previous quests. While it may be a nightmare for the developers to expand off existing content, this aspect of TESO will be extremely exciting and enjoyable for the players!

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One risk that they run with allowing new rewards and items into the game involves releasing an overpowered item that only one Alliance has access to. This could dramatically effect PvP if players aren't allowed to trade to other alliances (I see that as a bad idea for many reasons) resulting in economic imbalances as well. Over time players are going to demand the release of new and powerful weapons, and it will be Zenimax's job to make sure that they don't create a welfare system as the years go by. Players should be forced to work hard for their rewards, and there should be an estimated amount of time it takes for the average player to not only reach specific levels, but also obtain armor or weapon types as well.

Eventually The Elder Scrolls Online is going to contain an imbalance; every game ever designed has them, and players are great at identifying them and abusing them for personal advantages. What's important is that Zenimax recognizes these problems through community feedback and actually acts upon them rather than simply ignoring them altogether. This can be done many ways, including the release of further content or the manipulation of in-game abilities or gear strength. Changes to the game should only be made when absolutely necessary, so it will be Zenimax's job to thou roughly test their content before releasing it to the public. As long as they carefully consider the effects of these content releases, we can expect The Elder Scrolls Online to grow into one of the best MMO's of the century!
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Comments on The Balancing Act: Content Expansion Part 2
Post #47594
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As for phasing due to how we've completed quests, there may be an option for joining those in the guild or on our friend lists similar to a party. I know that there are no 'parties' as most games know them, instead we simply come close to another person and by proximity are counted as working together. However, there could potentially be a 'share quest content' option that basically sets you up as a hireling and you are their backup in the quest line. For example:
If Steve is on a quest to rid Whiterun of a menacing giant or three, he could ask Sarah from his guild to come and help. Sarah doesn't have the quest, which is shared to her, and she gets a message asking if she wants to be receiving credit for having done the quest. Perhaps Steve wants to straight up kill the giants, but Sarah wants to find a more peaceful solution (Giants were pushed out of their home by a group of Necromancers). So Sarah can say no and go back to do things her way. On the other hand, she wants to be done with it, accepts the shared reward, and opts out of the chance to find other endings. Killing the giants may give a nice chunk of coin from the townspeople, or the Giants repay the kindness by giving Sarah an enchanted Warhammer or mammoth hide armor.
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Terminus Zaire
Post #47897
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Manipulation of in-game abilities or class specific skills has always been a major concern of mine. No MMO is without its imbalances, and patches need to be made. With two factions it's hard enough..but with three opposing factions it will be even harder. I hope ZOS takes all the time they need to properly analyze the feedback from the community and go from there.

For instance, I think many people will not be surprised in the slightest if EP has the larger player base. Hopefully ZOS doesn't create unnecessary restrictions to try to even out the RvR. I have faith in the ES community helping things along. With a good partnership between devs and community, ESO should be very successful.

Nice article. I like the points that are brought up and discussed in tesof articles.
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Post #47943
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Good article @"Terminus Zaire". I always enjoy your articles.
Im curious though, what your opinion is (because it obvioulsy can only be speculation at this time) on what looks to be a problem with balancing future expansions of actual lands. What Im refferring to, is how theyre going to balance the expansion of lands when the map appears to show an obvious lack of anywhere to expand for Daggerfall.

Yea they can balance it out for release, but eventually theyre gona have to face that the map doesnt allow for much room to expand on that corner. Would you say that Daggerfall could "win" some of the land near them that starts as PvP contested lands, or are they going to have to "discover" some new land to the west or north? Or maybe there's some lands in the lore that arent represented yet, which could be adapted for this?

Most games go the way of "discovering" new lands to fix this issue, but Ive never been a big fan of this when theres already so much existing lore behind a game. I feel it shows a lack of creativity and dedication on the behalf of the devs. Any thoughts on how they might handle this?
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Post #47971
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You suggested that all alliances should haw same "gear" stats, as for pvp i see that is a balancing issues, but as immersion or pve point of view having all 3 alliances share same gear attributes feels weird and unrealistic, can suggest that lets say end game item, in DC a bow will haw +5%damage and EP will haw +10% bow speed and lets say AD bow will haw +health and stamina. Sure it looks unbalanced but what they can do is in next DLC make those items available for other alliances, this way they dont haw to create more new items with bigger stats, they just increase stats variety on items. If this is impossible, i wish to acquire same items should be in different ways for the alliances, lets say a bow with 5%damage you get in EP in a dungeon in AC in PvP reward, and DC Epic Quest reward, the item is the same and all alliances haw aces to it, but in different way, this keeps item balances and offers uniqueness to each alliance. Either way is good, but i dont want to see copy paste of way to get items in all 3 alliances, i want them to haw uniqueness feel.
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Post #53692
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Hey Terminus. Was good talking to you in line at the TESO party. Dropped in to say hi and check out the site.
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Post #53791
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(March 24th 2013, 10:46 PM)MasterShadow Wrote: Hey Terminus. Was good talking to you in line at the TESO party. Dropped in to say hi and check out the site.

Ahh hey, welcome to the website!
I'll be releasing an article tomorrow about the multiclassing idea we discussed, so stay tuned for it :P
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