In our modern era games promote themselves in many ways. Destiny calls itself a persistent world shooter. Instead of RPGs, there are Action RPGs. Many games call in the powers of social networking, advancement systems, loot, crafting, and auction houses. All of these are almost becoming the key words to build an MMO around. There are so many expectations out there from players that most companies won't even go near the term MMO because if they do not include all of these systems they are letting players down. Well I want to bring up the simple fact that there is one "system" which is really the only thing that matters for any video game: playability. As we enter the summer and potential Elder Scrolls beta period, the biggest question on my mind is, how playable is the game?
I define playability as "am I having fun in the moment?" When I log into the game what is there for me to do? Many MMOs act as grindfests where you are repeating a process to reach a single goal. Is the process that you are repeating fun? Probably for a while, but it will soon become boring. Elder Scrolls has shown its quest system, its open world maps, and its ability to accomplish character goals through different ways. These three systems can take the grind out of leveling in the game. On their own they work well, but it is the balance of the three which allows you to have fun from moment to moment.
If I log in any random night, I should be able to pick any one of these three options and play. If I am in the middle of a quest chain, they I can complete it. Or maybe I just want to explore the world tonight and not follow a quest. That choice for a player is very important and how a game like Elder Scrolls allows for players to make that choice is important to their success and retention.
The third part is accomplishing goals in different ways. A few weeks ago at the press event I was able to wear a pirate disguise to walk around the camp without fighting everything in sight. ESO is pretty difficult by the way, and I actually died a few times when pulling too many NPCs. I like the difficulty because it makes you think. Yet, the disguise made it so easy. That is until I got bored and attacked someone. Elder Scrolls has really presented the "play how you want" mentality. Adding that to an MMO is definitely ESO's biggest challenge.