Yours For The Looting: Elder Scrolls Online’s Exploration

It is also yours for the lute-ing.

I must (and have previously, and will continue to) admit that I wasn’t overly impressed by what I played of The Elder Scrolls Online. One thing that did take me by surprise, however, was all the random doodads lying around that I could just snatch up. One by one, bristling baskets of apples went right into my increasingly delicious pocket. Bread loaves, too. Oh, and bottles and lighting fixtures, because why not? I guess they were all for crafting, but I was just trying to fulfill my gamerly dream of possessing all objects. The latest Elder Scrolls Online video delves into all that and more, which is nice since these are kind of Elder Scrolls cornerstones. And it all looks quite attractive, too! I continue to worry, though, that Zenimax may not entirely be getting the point.

The point, of course, is cheese wheels. WHERE ARE ALL THE CHEESE WHEELS? I mean, come on: Skyrim’s were basically the reason the Havok physics engine was invented.

OK, also, the feeling of discovery just wasn’t there for me. A couple (rather signposted, in retrospect) books aside, nothing really took me by surprise. The world didn’t feel like it’d been hit by the subtly chaotic tornado that is mundane living. On the simplest and most disturbingly voyeuristic terms possible, I didn’t feel like I learned anything about this place’s people by going through their stuff. It all felt obligatory. Apple baskets, food tables, and obsessively scavengable crates were piled all about because they were supposed to be. Because Elder Scrolls.

That said, the crafting system itself sounds enticingly experimentation-driven, which is a place the former (pre-NGE) Star Wars Galaxies player in me wishes every MMO would go. Also, lockpicking! There are locks, and they can be picked. Thank goodness.

A closed beta is still ongoing, and you can sign up for a chance to join here. I’d ask participants to talk about their experiences, but I’m pretty sure they’re under a rather weighty NDA. So, what should we talk about instead? My vote’s for cheese wheels.


  1. phelix says:

    If you think cheese wheels were the highlight of Skyrim, you haven’t seen those Oblivion videos where people abuse an arrow glitch to spawn ten thousand cheese wheels in, say, their house, up to the point where multiple rooms become completely filled up with those things.

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  2. newguy2012 says:

    argh, they have that awful lockpicking minigame again.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Yeah, and it looks like they are using a version based on the crappy Oblivion type, rather than the Skyrim version, which I can actually manage sometimes. Gating your loot behind a minigame that some folks are going to be really poor at, does not sound like an optimal strategy to me.

      • Grape Flavor says:

        Huh. Personally, I had no trouble with the Oblivion lock picking. I haven’t played Skyrim yet due to my insane backlog, but from what I’ve read and watched Skyrim’s lock picking had struck me as more challenging, not less.

        Interesting. Obviously, I won’t really be able to compare until I’ve played the game.

        • empty_other says:

          Definitly easier in Skyrim. The moment you step out into Skyrim you can pick level 100 locks and you would probably not lose more than 5 lockpicks in the attempt.

  3. RProxyOnly says:

    How long do you think it’ll take to go F2P? I don’t know any ES players who are interested in this MMO.

    • newguy2012 says:

      who knows, I had some hope but now it just looks like a dilluted 3rd person skyrim. but I do hope they fare better than Kotor did.

    • Surlywombat says:

      Have they announced subscriptions? Personally I think they should go with Guild Wars model, but I doubt it will happen.

      • RProxyOnly says:

        I think the Guild Wars model is the only way this thing could be even partially profitable. I don’t see it making cash with a subs scheme.

        • Arglebargle says:

          Yeah, they need to go buy-to-play, as they seem to have mistakenly jumped down the DAoC rabbithole, while their main draw is Elder Scrolls fans. Really don’t see the RvRvR end game pvp as having that much traction with the ES fanbase. But it saves on having to continually put out other content that everyone will fly through.

        • tetracycloide says:

          Charge for the game. Open a mod store. Let mod makers charge for mods. Take a percentage. I think they could make quite a bit even if the MMO nature of the game limits mods to cosmetic and UI only.

  4. Vorphalack says:

    It feels as if the modern MMOs are in a race to the bottom with crafting systems. WoW always had a very basic production line system, gather exactly this many items and click to make thing. That was identified as boring, so whats the next move from the competition? Make it worse of course! The new trend seems to be removing what little interaction there was in the first place, leaving us with little more than a soulless interface for clicking and waiting to gather exactly this many items, and clicking and waiting to make thing. If it’s a FtP game, you can of course pay to avoid this entirely. A sad indictment of how horrible MMO crafting has become. I wanted to make a joke about how the next generation of MMOs will make it even worse, but I honestly can’t think how it could be done.

    It’s a real shame, as a game with a balanced, player driven economy and deep crafting system would hook people like crack. Why is no one pushing for this? Is it just publisher pressure to ape WoW (with added blandness) or is there simply no one with the talent to build this sort of complex interactive economy?

    • Bartack says:

      Crafting in ArcheAge is the future.

    • HighlordKiwi says:

      I always thought a crafting system based on something SpaceChem-like (i.e. a genuinly challenging problem solving game) could be interesting… actual scope for skill at crafting things, with real differences between player A’s goods and player B’s.

      • Reapy says:

        That really is a perfect combination now that you say it. I’ve hated crafting systems since first encountering them, time since, gathering up ingredients, keeping track of oh I have to go get 231 of x to hit the next craft level but oh crap I only had 230 so now I have to spend another 30 min getting another one, all to make things that are useless to me and every player in the game.

        But yes a puzzle component complex enough to take some finess that would affect item performance would be awesome, ESP space chem where the chem is magic and time taken and low cycles make things work better, yeah pretty awesome. Also thought it would be nice to have some actiony manipulation to go along with it to simulate skilled handling as you create something, sliding in a gear here while this plate is under pressure, one wrong move and BAM the item explodes and you start over again.

    • Obc says:

      i think a lot of the crafting systems in new MMOs are quite boring in that most of the crafts work exactly the same way.

      nowadays a lot of the crafting in WoW has something different to them, like how you get recipies or build stuff and there is still some reliance on other professions.

      alchemy recepies are random procs and every other profession wants its transmute CDs. Enchanting is old school buy/drop recepies. Inscription is learn a random new one each day and use the secondary item that learning skill provides for various other stuff. they also provide different buffs or enhancements e.g.: engineering give you a bit more utility and fun over raw power.

      even if the crafting itself is simple, what a craft entails is very varied. The whole process is also active. you craft or farm or whatever yourself. you create the best build order.

      GW2 or Neverwinter or Tor are very very boring and passive.

    • DeVadder says:

      *cough* Eve *cough*

      • Vorphalack says:

        I like a lot of what Eve does but it’s practically impenetrable for a solo player without inhuman effort. Personally i’d prefer a seamless open world MMO with better options for player industry, combined with a more active style of game play, as opposed to Eves space simulation.

    • Somerled says:

      Any good reason to have crafting in MMOs at all? Besides tradition.

      • Sakkura says:

        It’s a pretty good way of stimulating a partially player-driven economy. EVE Online is the master of both economy and crafting, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

      • tetracycloide says:

        People like to collect things, as pointed out in the article, and when executed well a crafting system leverages that it makes for compelling gameplay.

    • iridescence says:

      Just seems part of the wider trend of making MMOs that almost play themselves. “Follow the flashing arrow, click on the monster to make him die. Don’t worry we’ve taken anything that may require thought or strategy out of the equation for you!”

      That being said, I think GW2 did crafting very well, I don’t know why you lump it in with the others. Their crafting system is quite complex and engaging.

      • Vorphalack says:

        I assume you were replying to Obc, ‘cos i’m sure I didn’t mention GW2. Personally I didn’t hate the GW2 system, it was hands down better than any of the direct competition, but I don’t think it’s really close to the apex of what could be done.

    • Bart Stewart says:

      It’s worth bearing in mind that crafting in the initial (as-designed) Star Wars Galaxies wasn’t just about frequently spawning resources with multiple characteristics affecting the crafted object. (Although that was the part I liked best.)

      It was also designed to be a key component in the “no player can do everything alone” design. In particular, players who preferred combat play were forced to rely on crafting-oriented players for their weapons and armor (and droids), as well as on social-oriented players for healing wounds.

      This system wasn’t perfect. Explorers and Socializers didn’t need each other, and neither needed fighters as much as fighters needed them. And of course the dependence of fighters on the crafters and dancers started being nerfed the moment SWG was handed to the Live Team, finally culminating in the NGE.

      Still, it was a noteworthy attempt to get people cooperating in a MMORPG by building those needs directly into the structure of the game.

      Me, I’d still like to see a game where crafters have a deep system for designing cool new things; social players make the designs look attractive and advertise them; Achievers buy the designs, mass-produce actual objects from those designs and use those objects in the field; and Killers destroy them in inventive ways. :)

    • tetracycloide says:

      Path of Exile had a good crafting system and a balanced player driven economy. The two are even quite artfully combined. Unfortunately the core gameplay isn’t as good as many others.

  5. tobias says:

    Wow… just search for ‘cheese wheel spawn’ on youtube. Eye opening.

  6. Solidstate89 says:

    Cheese wheels? Was this article secretly written by Sheogorath?

  7. bit.bat says:

    On first glance I thought that the elf was holding a machine gun.

  8. YoungSeal says:

    I don’t have a lot of experience with MMO’s but I can’t wait to see what happens to all that “interactivity” once its hit with a boat load of players at the same time.

  9. Stevostin says:

    Well one goo thing for them: every video looks more and more like Skyrim visuall. Which is a huge improvement over their starting point.

    If the “police/security” system in Skyrim is working it can actually be pretty fun to see noobs ransacking city then go to jail.

    But is there a jail ?

  10. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    Dis someone say fishing? It’s this kind of attention to the mundane that will seperate ESO from say SEGA Bass Fishing or Animal Crossing. I wholeheartedly endosrse this approach to making adventure games that could/should be of interest to me and instead combining Cooking Mama, Animal Crossing, WoW etc, etc!

    • engion3 says:

      I love animal crossing. I have to get my little cousin to go into the store and buy it for me. Feels weird.

  11. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    The alt/title text this morning is absolutely wonderful!

  12. PitfireX says:

    I’m a product tester. I test games for a living, and I didn’t get beta. wtf lol

  13. satsui says:

    I hear there’s a cheese wheel contest in Gloucestershire. This is on my to-do list once I get go across the big blue wet thing again.

    Here’s a video: link to

  14. Zogtee says:

    Some impressively stiff and robotic animations there.

  15. thebrickgoat says:

    funny, the first thing i noticed is the guy that appears to be sharpening the wrong side of an ax

  16. Audiocide says:

    HAVOK physics engine is a blight upon the world. I have no idea why developers insist on including it in their games. I guess there is no alternative except the proprietary NVidia one, but still… I wish there was an option to turn it off, so I could play my games without movable objects randomly spazzing.

    • mechabuddha says:

      You mean you don’t love your enemy’s corpse shaking uncontrollably while one leg clips through their torso?

    • Darkwings says:

      Those glitches aren’t even the worst problems.
      Oblivion and Skyrim share the same flaws while being divided by a 6 years gap.
      Sadly, most ‘fans’ of the series dismiss that as a minor thing.

      When you see arrows stuck on invisible walls and how you could hide behind stuff so small or thin that certainly couldn’t even cover 2% of the character the immersion is ruined and it feels like cheating.

      By the same logic that allows a character to have an arrow in the face with no repercussion on health, they ‘fixed’ the game balance by removing flying and freeform enchanting.