The ESO tutorial controversy
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 February 2014, 3:23 am
I haven't played The Elder Scroll Online yet. But my newsreader is overflowing with people fighting over the game on various blogs since the NDA dropped. Basically a lot of people played the game for an afternoon, didn't like it, and said so. And then the fans got into an angry rage at all those negative reviews and started shouting at the reviewers that they hadn't tested the game long enough. Apparently the tutorial of The Elder Scrolls Online is very long and significantly different from the rest of the game. And the fans and devs apparently don't understand why that is a problem.

Now to some extent you could say the same thing about every MMORPG. If for example you believe that the *real* World of Warcraft is endgame raids, it obviously is impossible for a new player to get a realistic experience of the game through a few hours of testing. On the other hand, the raiding endgame is only used by a minority of players. And your first day in World of Warcraft will look pretty much like your second. And third. And fourth, etc., so the tutorial can well be said to be representative of the main part of the game.

If there is a discontinuity between how the game plays in the tutorial and how the main game plays, that is far more of a problem. The Elder Scrolls Online is an expensive game which you will normally need to buy before playing, and then pay for a subscription on top of that. So a great number of people will use the beta as a free sneak preview to make a purchase decision. If what you'll see in the first few hours of that sneak preview doesn't correspond to how the game really plays, people end up making the wrong decision: Those who don't like the style of the tutorial won't buy the game although they might have liked the real game. Those who like the style of the tutorial buy the game, but then quit after the free month when they found out that the rest of the game isn't like that. The whole story reminds me a lot of Age of Conan. That game had a level-limited beta, and the experience in that part accessible in the beta was significantly different from the rest. I bought the game because I liked the beta, and then quit as soon as I found out that the rest of the game didn't work like that.

What is missing from most MMORPGs is an option to skip the tutorial. That would help a lot with a beta / preview experience. People like to try out different classes or races in a beta, and if they have to play through the same or similar experience every time, that isn't much fun. And then they are being told that the part they played through repeatedly doesn't resemble the actual game at all.
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