Elder Scrolls Online: Ask Us Anything at QuakeCon 2013

Although the big reveal at QuakeCon 2013 for me was the 30-minute solo and group dungeon play over on Twitch, ESO also has a nice “Ask Us Anything” from the event that covers death penalties, “mob glow”, LFG tool, teleporting to friends, and a couple lore questions.

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Last week’s live gameplay stream at QuakeCon created a lot of excitement—and plenty of new questions about The Elder Scrolls Online. Check out our answers to some of them here.

We had lots of fun presenting our very first gameplay stream last week, which included a dungeon run and a close look at ESO’s combat. If you missed it, you can still enjoy the full replay. After the stream, you had lots of new questions, and we’ve selected some to answer right here. Are you wondering about something in ESO? Send us an email atcommunity@elderscrollsonline.com and we may feature your question in an upcoming Ask Us Anything. Enjoy!

Which level were the monsters in the QuakeCon stream compared to the characters? I saw them cutting through their enemies quite easily, but the health bars went up and down a lot. Did some monsters hit that hard and is healing that effective, or did your characters have that little health? – By Andrew Markton

Fungal Grotto is a level 12 – 15 dungeon. I believe we had two level 13 characters and two level 16 characters in our party during the stream. Since players can put points into health, magicka, or stamina, it’s likely that some characters’ health totals were lower than others. However, what you saw is a pretty good indication of health fluctuation and the need to heal when taking on a dungeon.

Will there be an option to turn off the glow around enemies? – By Nate Collins

Yes, you will be able to turn it off. I will say that the glow is much more apparent when you’re watching than it is when you’re playing. It’s very effective at helping with target selection, and you may find it useful in some situations, but it’s up to you whether to enable it.

You said that my armor will degrade when I die. Can I repair it, or do I have to pay an NPC? – By Jen Hauser

We have repair kits for repairs in the field, and you can visit an NPC to have all of your gear repaired.

I noticed the compass in the stream. Does it replace the mini-map or is it another option? If it does replace it, will it show more than points of interest, like guild and group members or enemies? – By Karen Tengart

The compass will replace the mini-map. Actually, this is a good example of how we use information from our beta tests. When we had a mini-map, we noticed many testers felt like they should just follow quest markers, and they were less inclined to explore. This ran counter to our intent of being a game that emphasizes exploration. When we introduced the compass, players became much more likely to explore and less likely to just “follow the quests.”

As for putting group members on the compass, we’re trying to avoid having too much clutter on the compass. We do have in-world indicators for group members, though, which are proving to be very effective.

When a class says nothing about the playstyle of another player, how will the dungeon finder still allow me to look for healing or damaged focused players? – By Tommy Reed

Players will pick the role they think they can best perform when they sign up to find a group.

So many mudcrabs—where did they all come from? I am confused. – By John Raighley

Only Lorkhan knows, and his secrets died with him.

How much of the footage and animation we saw on Twitch is finalized? – By Tom Gregor

We’re polishing everything in the game, and that will continue as we head towards launch. First-person mode, which you saw quite a bit of in the video, is one of our more recent additions, and you can expect to see improvements to it as we continue development.

Will the transportation system—and especially porting to group mates—work in PvP, too? If so, how many “safe” locations are in Cyrodiil? – By Pete Jameston

The fast-travel system is very different in Cyrodiil. We don’t want to have battles where each side can instantly transport in reinforcements, assuring no clear winner. You will be able to fast travel to points clearly secured by your alliance. That said, with the size of Cyrodiil, I will say that mounts are a pretty good thing to have.

Is the instanced loot random for one person or will everyone receive the same item / crafting component / amount of gold? – By Jean Despar

Instanced loot is random per person.

Can you explain the equipment and skills from the gameplay stream a bit more? Which armor did he wear? Which skills did he use? – By Mira Yump

Nick was playing a ranged DPS Templar for most of the session. He was in a combination of light and medium armor, going for protection and an increase in the efficacy of his magic use. His alternate weapon set was dual-wielding. Nick was able to heal himself and the group as sort of a backup healer, even though he only put one or two skill points in his healing line. The spear you saw and “light” abilities are signature abilities of the Templar. The spear knocks enemies back as it damages them, and the bright ball of light applies a damage-over-time effect and a snare. Nick also had some weapon abilities he used, depending on the weapon type he was currently wielding.

Gina played a Sorcerer using sword and shield and wearing heavy armor. Rich was a Nightblade in light armor who helped keep the party alive with a restoration staff, and Eric chose a dual-wielding Dragonknight with medium armor.

Hello, I am wondering if other Daedric Princes are in the game (besides Molag Bal), since I am a big fan of Mehrunes Dagon. – By Austin

Yes, there are definitely other Daedric Princes. Sheogorath comes to mind … [AuA disappears in a cloud of butterflies.]

Microsoft Backpeddles On Kinect Requirement for Xbox 360 (Kotaku.com)

Is it just me, or has Microsoft back-peddled on just about everything that made it unique from the PS4 launch? DRM was in, then out. Mandatory logging-in and gaming online at least once every 24 hours. That’s now gone. The Kinect is always on, always listening. But…you can turn it off because you thought that was creepy. And now? The Kinect is mandatory for every Xbox One to work. Except for now you can turn it off completely and it doesn’t impact any Xbox One functions. Le. Sigh.

Did Microsoft really get all of this so wrong at the start or did the “backlash” on the interwebs really scare them into changing their ways?

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Kinect No Longer Mandatory For Xbox One (But Will Still Come With It)

Another backflip? Back in May, Microsoft said that you’ll need have the motion-sensing Kinect plugged in at all times in order for your Xbox One to function, but now they’re reversing course once again.

“That said, like online, the console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in, although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor,” he said.

Asked just how “off” the Kinect can be, Whitten answered totally off.

“You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings. When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work. We still support using it for IR blasting in this mode. You can turn the sensor back on at any time through settings, and if you enter into a required Kinect experience (like Kinect Sports Rivals for instance), you’ll get a message asking if you want to turn the sensor back on in order to continue.”

This is yet another entry to add to the list of stunning reversals in Xbox One policy made by Microsoft over the past few months. In June, Microsoft switched course on Xbox DRM, and they’ve flipped on all sorts of other policies since then.

UPDATE: And here’s Microsoft senior exec Albert Penello, posting on NeoGAF about the flip. (Bolded emphasis mine)

We still believe in Kinect. We aren’t interested in splitting the development base. The more demos I’ve seen, the more I’ve used it – the more impressed I am. The team feels strongly about Kinect, and I hope we’re able to prove that when you use it.

We also have a ton of privacy settings to allow people to turn off the camera, or microphones, or put it in a state just for “Xbox On” and IR blasting – there will be a lot of user control for that.

The thing we all understood, and hence this change, is that there are some scenarios where people just may not be comfortable. We wanted people to be 100% comfortable, so we allow the sensor to be unplugged. And clearly the “it dropped” scenario is possible.

The most obvious thing is watching a DVD/BD, or streaming a movie, or HDMI pass-through, your experience isn’t impacted (except you miss voice and IR blasting)

There is no “gotcha”, but obviously, if there is a game that REQUIRES Kinect (like Rivals), or something where Kinect IS the experience (like Skype), those won’t work.

That said, for people who have privacy concerns there are user control settings, which we believe are great.

Xbox One Live Sub Required to Use DVR (IGN.com)

This is unfortunate, but I guess not completely surprising. As I won’t be using the DVR features, it won’t affect my gameplay experience much.

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An Xbox Live Gold subscription  is required to use Xbox One‘s DVR game-capture and video sharing functionality. Gold members will also have access to Skype and Smart Match multiplayer matchmaking, of course, as online play requires a Gold subscription.

Xbox Live Gold’s one-year membership costs $60 in North America, and Xbox 360 users’ existing Gold accounts will unlock access to Skype, DVR, Smart Match, and more when Xbox One releases this November. Currently, Xbox Gold members can get Crackdown for free on Xbox 360.

Xbox One’s DVR captures clips at 30 frames per second in 720p, Microsoft recently told IGN. For more on how Xbox Live works on Xbox One, check out IGN’s detailed wiki guide. Will you upgrade to Gold for game capture and sharing capabilities, or are you an existing member looking forward to the features? Let us know in the comments below.

Xbox One: Trying to Ban Jerks (IGN.com)

It’ll be interesting to see how quickly “accidents” happen with the rating system and innocent players start turning up with an “Avoid Me” title. That said, in theory at least I think this system is pretty great! I would love to have something like this on the MMORPG front so I know when I enter a dungeon whether or not to be worried about loot ninjas, harassment, etc.

IGN offers two 90-second videos to help explain the details of Xbox One’s Reputation System.

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Xbox One Reputation System Has Cheats and Jerks in its Sights

Microsoft has outlined in greater detail its recently revealed reputation system for Xbox One, explaining the specifics of the new system in an Xbox Wire post penned by Microsoft’s Michael Dunn, program manager on Xbox Live.

“If you don’t want to play with cheats or jerks, you shouldn’t have to,” writes Dunn. “Our new reputation model helps expose people that aren’t fun to be around and creates real consequences for trouble-makers that harass our good players.”

Your reputation score will ultimately see you slotted into one of three, colour-coded groups: “Good Player” (green), “Needs Improvement” (yellow), or “Avoid me” (red). Where you sit on this spectrum will be reflected on your gamer card.

“The more hours you play online without being a jerk, the better your reputation will be; similar to the more hours you drive without an accident, the better your driving record and insurance rates will be,” explains Dunn. “Most players will have good reputations and be seen as a “Good Player.” The algorithm is looking to identify players that are repeatedly disruptive on Xbox Live.”

“We’ll identify those players with a lower reputation score and in the worse cases they will earn the “Avoid Me” reputation. Before a player ends up with the “Avoid Me” reputation level we will have sent many different alerts to the “Needs Improvement” player reminding them how their social gaming conduct is affecting lots of other gamers.”

Dunn goes on to assure players the reputation algorithm is sophisticated enough to recognise when it may be being abused, confirming you will not be penalised for a few bad reports.

“Even good players might receive a few player feedback reports each month and that is OK,” writes Dunn. “The algorithm weighs the data collected so if a dozen people suddenly reporting a single user, the system will look at a variety of factors before docking their reputation.”

“We’ll verify if those people actually played in an online game with the person reported – if not, all of those player’s feedback won’t matter as much as a single person who spent 15 minutes playing with the reported person. The system also looks at the reputation of the person reporting and the alleged offender, frequency of reports from a single user and a number of other factors.”

“This system will continue to evolve and get better as we track the feedback we get from players and titles, plus add more consequences for the jerks.”

Xbox One’s Kinect Used in Many Ways (Xbox.com)

Xbox Ones’ new Kinect is 10x more powerful than its predecessor. That’s a pretty extraordinary leap in less than three years. The Xbox news blog post goes on to outline some of the features the MS Cloud will offer along with some possibilities of a second screen.

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How Game Creators are Using the Power of Xbox One

Xbox One will usher in a new generation of games, and at Comic-Con International: San Diego, developers from some of the most celebrated gaming studios in the world gathered to show fans how they’re doing just that. Featuring talent from Rare, Ltd., Turn 10 Studios, Microsoft Studios and Capcom Vancouver, the panel focused on how teams are leveraging the unique abilities of the console to create experiences that enhance and evolve the way games are played.

Advanced Graphical Fidelity

A new generation console means new generation graphics fueled by faster, more powerful hardware.

Josh Bridge, Executive Producer on “Dead Rising 3,” used their vision of a nightmarish zombie apocalypse to demonstrate the level of visual fidelity that the Xbox One allows them to achieve. Zombies can be dismembered with anatomically gruesome realism. Each shard of broken glass is governed by its own set of physics and will react differently depending on how you smash through a window. The vast sandbox world of Los Perdidos is larger than “Dead Rising” and “Dead Rising 2” combined, and is populated with detailed buildings that can be fully explored.

And of course, “Dead Rising 3” is capable of supporting hordes of zombies on screen at a single time – a far cry from the handful that pushed the Xbox 360 to its limits last generation.

“One of the big things we wanted to do with the Xbox One’s increased horsepower was to push the reality of the world and make it more believable and tense,” said Bridge. “Zombies are the enemy this time, so why not make it look good?”

A More Powerful Kinect

According to Nick Burton, New Technology Development Lead at Rare, Ltd. working on “Kinect Sports Rivals,” Xbox One’s Kinect sensor has ten times the power of its predecessor. It can register a fingertip from three meters away, a feat that was impossible last generation, and its wider field of tracking means it can register more players and at closer distances.

“Kinect Sports Rivals” is using Kinect’s advanced technology to provide a new layer of precision and depth of mastery. No longer will vague gestures be enough to secure victory – every subtle movement is registered in-game and impacts performance. How hard you twist your wrist while revving the throttle of a jet ski affects its acceleration and your exact hand placement can mean the difference between success and failure in rock climbing.

Rare is also developing brand-new gameplay features, like “Kinect Sports Rivals’” Champions. If you stand or sit in front of the new Kinect sensor, it can capture your facial structure, hair, skin color, body composition and even expression, and build a remarkably accurate virtual athlete – your Champion – in seconds.

The new Kinect can also make basic gaming tasks more convenient. For instance, Ken Lobb, Creative Director at Microsoft Studios and one of the founders of the original “Killer Instinct,” explained how Kinect’s ability to identify players makes switching profiles and preferences on Xbox One seamless.

In fighting games, players like to map their buttons all over the controller, Lobb explained. So when playing “Killer Instinct,” once you make a profile and set your preferred button configuration, Kinect will instantly recognize when you’re holding the controller and map the buttons accordingly, even if it’s in the middle of a match.

“It seems kind of simple,” said Lobb, “but its super awesome once you see it in play.”

Gameplay Enhanced by the Cloud

The future of online gaming on Xbox One will be better than ever. As Xbox’s Major Nelson previously shared, matchmaking will be faster and smarter, factoring in numerous variables, such as player reputation, spoken language and skill, to ensure you’re consistently paired with players who fit your preferred style of play.  If you’re tearing up the competition in “Killer Instinct,” you’ll be pitted against only the best. If you enjoy racing against aggressive players in “Forza Motorsport 5,” future matches will be tailored accordingly.

However, being connected to the Internet on Xbox One is not just about playing with other gamers anymore. In “Forza Motorsport 5” Turn 10 Studios will use the Internet to aggregate race data from players all around the world to breed a new type of opponent that consistently learns and evolves – Drivatar.

“It [Drivatar] watches the way you play and the cloud [Xbox Live] takes all this data and data from the entire community and builds an opponent with no set or finite number of variables,” said Dan Greenawalt, Creative Director on “Forza Motorsport 5.” “It creates variables based on what it saw the community do and trains your Drivatar to drive just the way you do.”

Sharing your favorite gaming moments with friends is an experience that Xbox One is bringing to life with Game DVR and Upload Studio. Whether you’re online or off, your Xbox One can record your most epic gameplay moments, so when you nail that game-winning headshot you’ll automatically have that footage available to edit into a highlight reel.

At EVO 2013, one fan went undefeated for hours in “Killer Instinct” until at long last the best player on the “Killer Instinct” development team was able to defeat them. Using Game DVR, they were able to record the best parts of the highly competitive set of three matches. With Upload Studio, they were able to quickly turn it into a stylized video clip that could be shown off locally, like during a panel at Comic-Con, or broadcast through Xbox Live for the world to see.

If you want to share gameplay footage immediately without editing it, Xbox One also supports that. Simply say “Xbox record” at any time and the console will record what happens next for you to send to your friends or upload to the Internet.

The Possibilities with an Enhanced Second Screen

In “Dead Rising 3,” the Xbox SmartGlass Companion is integrated in both the gameplay and fiction. Nick Ramos, the game’s lead character, will discover a transmitter that will allow an in-game character to actually call you on your real-life mobile device with information, advice and even unique missions. Alternately, you can also use SmartGlass to set waypoints, view maps and call in military aid, like weapon drops and deadly airstrikes.

“You don’t have to use it, but it adds a lot,” said Josh Bridge. For example, the team found that Xbox SmartGlass opens up the possibility of two-screen couch co-op. While playing “Dead Rising 3” in the Capcom Vancouver office, Bridge’s colleagues would often pick up his mobile device and assist him with navigating through the city or finding new weapons.

“Ryse: Son of Rome” showcased a different way to use Xbox SmartGlass. Microsoft Studios and Crytek are creating an Xbox SmartGlass Companion that mirrors the game’s user interface and lets players manage every aspect of their “Ryse: Son of Rome” experience on their mobile device.  Whether it’s comparing stats or watching Achievement guides, customizing your multiplayer character, or reading the latest community updates, everything is accessible through your mobile device by tapping into Xbox SmartGlass.

Justin Robey, Producer on “Ryse: Son of Rome,” also revealed that multiplayer games in “Ryse: Son of Rome” can be set up using Xbox SmartGlass, even while playing a different title. If you’re playing “Dead Rising 3,” you can use Xbox SmartGlass to begin matchmaking in “Ryse: Son of Rome,” so your multiplayer session will be ready and waiting without ever having to take a break from the action.

From powerful hardware that can bring worlds to life, to the gameplay enhancing possibilities of Xbox SmartGlass, the features discussed at Comic-Con and more are available to all developers working on Xbox One titles. They are fundamental parts of the Xbox One tool box, and as games like “Ryse: Son of Rome,” “Forza Motorsport 5,” “Dead Rising 3,” “Killer Instinct” and others have shown, developers are already taking advantage of these opportunities to create gaming experiences unlike anything seen before.

Xbox One launches this November.  A release date, said Major Nelson, will be revealed later this summer.

Remaining Places to Pre-Order Xbox One & PS4? (DigitalTrends.com)

Four of the biggest names in console sales (Best Buy, Amazon.com, GameStop, and Toys R Us) are already sold-out for both the Xbox One and the PS4. So where does that leave you, especially if you’re looking to pre-order either/both as a present for end-of-year holidays? It appears you  have five remaining options, plus buying directly from either company. Read on!

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If you are hoping to pre-order a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One, you might want to hurry. All around the country, major retailers are listing the consoles as “sold-out,” leading up to what is looking more and more like a shortage on launch day. That may be good for Sony and Microsoft (and their stock prices), but it’s bad for a consumer hoping to get their hands on what are shaping up to be two of the hottest items this holiday season.

… you may have to go a little deeper down the rabbit hole of online shopping…

With stores like GameStop and Best Buy both listing Sony and Microsoft’s consoles as sold out, you may have to go a little deeper down the rabbit hole of online shopping leading up to the as yet unannounced launch dates. The PS4 is listed with a generic release date of December 31 (in other words, sometime this year), while the Xbox One is listed by several retailers as November 27. Whatever the exact dates, expect them both to release before the yearly shopping Super Bowl that is Black Friday, which this year lands on November 29.

Sony and Microsoft are still hoping to meet all launch day demands, although that probably isn’t going to be possible. At the moment, several stores are still accepting pre-orders but you should expect stock to disappear quickly. We’ll try to keep this list updated throughout the coming months, but don’t be surprised if the stores below sell out, and soon.

(If you find that a store on this list has changed its status to “sold out,” please let us know and we’ll update it accordingly. We’ll also add more stores in the weeks to come.)

Both Systems

Fry’s Electronics: The national electronic giant is not offering in-store pickups, but it will ship to you. You will need to pay shipping, so factor that into your budget. There is also a limit of one PS4 and Xbox One per household.

Kmart: The PS4 and Xbox One are both available for pre-order, and both are available for free shipping. As with most retailers, there is a limit of one per household.

Sears: Although not generally thought of as an electronic store, Sears has both the PS4 and Xbox One for pre-order, along with all the accessories and launch day titles announced. Free shipping is available, and there is a limit one per household.

Walmart: Walmart is the largest video game seller in the world, so you can expect two things: one, they will have a huge allotment from both Sony and Microsoft; two, they will likely sell through their pre-orders quickly. You can also add a three-year warranty, which isn’t quite as comprehensive as Target’s (it doesn’t cover accidental damage beyond wear and tear), but it is cheaper at $44 and lasts a year longer. It is also offering free shipping. No limit on the number of units you can buy.

PlayStation 4 Only

Sony StoreSony’s own store is offering the PS4, of course, along with free shipping and no apparent limit on the number of units you can pick up. You can also finance directly through Sony.

Xbox One Only

Microsoft StoreYou can purchase an Xbox One from Microsoft’s own store, and that also extends to the Xbox 360′s dashboard. If you are an Xbox 360 user, just connect online and look for the Xbox One icon, and you can pre-order directly from there. Free shipping, and a limit of one per household.

Raptr: Most Played Games (PC, Xbox 360) in June 2013

There are some BIG surprises here. RIFT has a MASSIVE month, absolutely crushing its nearest competition and pulls in more gaming hours than the bottom half of the entire Top 20 combined.

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RAPTR’S MOST PLAYED GAMES: JUNE 2013 — NOW WITH PC AND XBOX 360-SPECIFIC TOP 20 LISTS

Aside from newcomer State of Decay and a resurgent Fable III, June’s Most Played list doesn’t hold too many surprises. Total playtime was up 16% over the previous month, however, and MOBAs League of Legends and DOTA 2 both posted significant playtime gains as well.

Note: This list, based on playtime data from Raptr’s 18 million users, includes PC and Xbox 360 games only — Sony and Nintendo don’t let players share gameplay data publicly, so that’s why no The Last of Us or Animal Crossing in the rankings.

The Share number by each game represents that title’s gameplay time as a percentage of the total time spent on the top 1000 games played by Raptr users, and is useful for comparing the relative amount of play time between particular games.

HIGHLIGHTS

Last month Rift enjoyed a big playtime bump among Raptr members due to a series of Raptr Rewards, but this month Rift’s transition to free to play was a significant factor. While we can’t quantify the F2P-related increase exactly, month over month Rift playtime is up 95%.

The rise and rise of popular free-to-play MOBAs League of Legends and DOTA 2 continued in June, with both posting their largest monthly playtime gains so far this year, up 36% and 45% respectively.

And if you’re wondering how Fable III, a game that came out in 2010, could suddenly catapult up 157 spots — it was a free download for Xbox Live Gold subscribers in the latter half of June.

State of Decay, on the other hand, earned its spot the old-fashioned way — by clearing over 250k copies in its first two days in the Xbox Live Marketplace and 500k in the first week, making it the second-best-XBLA seller after Minecraft. Not a bad debut for developer Undead Labs.

Borderlands 2 may have fallen a few spots this month, but the Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC (launched on 6/25) is responsible for the largest playtime bump we’ve seen for the game so far. In the final week of June Borderlands 2 was the sixth most played game on Raptr.

A steady stream of content updates are definitely having a positive impact for Guild Wars 2 over the last three months — the Dragon Bash event and Sky Pirates of Tyria update both launched in June, and playtime was up 64% compared to the game’s low point this year, March.

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PC HIGHLIGHTS

Rift and Rumble Fighter both enjoyed Reward-related boosts this month, while a free Steam weekend and sale in early June bumped Civilization V up the ranks. In the three weeks post Steam sale Civ gameplay was still about double what it had been before.

F2P MMO Marvel Heroes had a good launch, but by the end of the month it was definitely fading and won’t be in the top 20 next month, barring new content or other events to reignite the community.

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XBOX 360 HIGHLIGHTS

Not a lot to report here — aside from Fable III’s rocket up the charts (discussed above), a couple other old-timers got a boost. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 playtime was up 25% month over month…and if you know why, tell us in the comments. And Dark Souls was the XBL Deal of the Week in early June.

Defiance: “Play the Game. Join the Show.” Contest Underway

During all the pre-launch hype for Defiance, the developers and TV cast made it clear that players would have opportunities to crossover into the the TV show from the game. Unfortunately, they didn’t really mean the “players”, they meant the player’s “characters”. That said, here’s the second push from the Defiance franchise to get players into the actual TV show. There are different ways to register based on using PC, Xbox 360, or PS3, so go to the official page to get specific details.

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PLAY THE GAME. JOIN THE SHOW.

The first Season of Defiance the Show has come to an end but your journey continues. Replay all of the Defiance cross-over content in the game from July 8th through July 30th and enter for a chance to have your character written onto the TV show. Get started now.

CONTEST DETAILS

How will the winner be chosen?
The top 10 ark hunters who complete the most arkfall events during the time period July 8th 10am PT to July 30th 10am PT will qualify to have their character written onto the show. The top 10 players will have their characters submitted to a Facebook voting contest. The top 5 players from this vote will then be submitted to the writers staff at Syfy. The final winner will be selected by Kevin Murphy, the lead creator the TV show.

How do I enter?
Follow the contest registration steps above, then complete the most arkfall events during the time period July 8th 10am PT to July 30th 10am PT will qualify.

What are Major Arkfall events?
Major Arkfalls happen in the game daily and are random events where players can salvage the most loot. When the event occurs the player will be notified on his player map.

What can I win?
The winner will have his/her character appear on the next season of Defiance the TV show. The writing staff will create the characters back story and give the character an appearance on one of the episodes.

When will winners be announced?
Top 10 finalists will be notified by email on August 2nd. The finalists will then be announced via Facebook on August 9th. Final Winner will be selected By September 15th.

How can I get alerts for future crossover contests?
Subscribe to the Defiance newsletter! You’ll get early info on upcoming contests, content, and offers from Defiance. To subscribe, log in to your Trion account, check the Defiance box in your “Newsletters” tab, and click “Save.”

Click here for official Contest Rules.

Elder Scrolls Online: Interview with Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konkle (TenTonHammer.com)

This is a nice article that covers first person view, alliance wars, endgame theorycrafting, and next-gen consoles.

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ESO Interview with Nick Konkle

We recently sat down for a candid discussion about the unstoppable MMO juggernaut in the making, Elder Scrolls Online, with lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle. Topics of discussion included the implementation of first-person view, cross-platform gameplay considerations, and the ways character builds will be a constantly shifting component of Alliance Wars PvP.


First-Person View in ESO

For a lot of gamers, the seminal Elder Scrolls experience involves playing in first-person view. While plenty of MMOs give players the option to zoom the camera into first-person, few really factor in the visual aspects of seeing equipped weapons and the sizable impact it can have on feeling truly engaged in combat. In other words, it’s kind of like playing an FPS, only without seeing the assault rifle you have equipped so the bullets just magically appear from somewhere off-screen each time you pull the trigger.

Earlier this year we were given a sneak peak at how this aspect of ESO was shaping up, but at that point it wasn’t a playable option in the press demo builds. It certainly looked badass, but we were curious about how has that aspect of the game’s development been progressing, and if there were any unexpected hurdles in the implementation process.

Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konlke explained, “It came together much faster and better than I was expecting. Sometimes when you go from prototype to playable, it’s pretty good but then once you get to mass production it can introduce 75 new issues. It didn’t go that way this time. Instead, it was suddenly two months later and it’s in and we’re done, so that was good.

A thing that did surprise me is that I’m not really a first-person gamer, though I do play Elder Scrolls interchangeably. For example, I played Skyrim in first, and Oblivion in third-person. So when first-person went in our game I was expecting it to be similar, like I could play it this way, but I probably won’t. But I do. It’s absolutely my preferred way to play now. It’s just super immersive and cool, and it’s the only way I play now. We’ve noticed with MMO purists, they start liking first-person with a ranged weapon like a bow or staff, and then after they get used to the basics of the perspective change they take the whole thing on that way.”

Alliance Wars and the Character Build Metagame

While I’m more inclined to stick to third-person in most MMOs, it’s rarely a matter of immersion for me so much as the heightened spatial and situational awareness. Even having gone through a fairly hardcore period playing first-person shooters, I want as much visual feedback as possible in competitive situations. This will no doubt hold doubly true when it comes to the size and scope of Alliance Wars PvP in ESO.

Speaking of Alliance Wars, we were really interested in learning more about how that slice of the game is progressing given it’s a major component of the long-tail gameplay and endgame for Elder Scrolls Online.

Nick explained, “All the testing is still internal, but we’re pretty excited to get that part of the game into the beta. We just had a big office-wide PvP test that was quite a bit of fun, and there are any number of anecdotes that I could share from that experience. But let’s just say it’s pretty big; there are some epic battles going on with 50 on 50 groups meeting on the open field.

The main thing that I’m really happy about as a result of this is that we’re getting a lot of builds tested. We’re in the middle of a lot of balancing and adjustments in development, and a lot of times even a small balance tweak will lead to whole shifts in the metagame around the office in terms of what build is now the popular one.

The three or four builds that are really popular changes every couple of months, and they don’t always align with what you’d expect. So what’s the coolest to me is that people will have their weird random builds that they make out of their Elder Scrolls characters and they go into PvP and they make them work. That’s my dream.”

One of the signs of a great elder game competitive system is that you never reach a point where things feel static. As new flavor-of-the-month builds rise to prominence, the system needs to offer enough flexibility for proper counters to those builds to be formulated.

Nick was quick to agree. “Any particular build needs to have a counter. Similarly, with any ability that’s more powerful or possibly sets up a sequence for a style of play, you need to make sure that there’s something you can do when you fight against that. As long as I don’t think the counter system comes down to A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A and that’s the metagame. You want a really big wheel that no one can actually map all the way out so that it constantly shifts. You don’t want it to be cookie-cutter at any level.”

Simple rock-paper-scissors systems definitely don’t cut it when it comes to metagame balance. With the three factions present in ESO there is potential for that layer to be present, but that’s on a much grander and more tactical scale as opposed to the drilled-down character build level. In ESO there will no doubt be certain builds that are considered a bit more iconic. A pure healer build where you focus on the healing staff and full light armor would be one such example.

We were also curious if there were any team-level build concepts that have come into play so far in the office play sessions that were either unexpected, or have in some way helped influence how different counters have been introduced. A perfect example here would be in any MMO that has PBAoE abilities, you’re bound to see character stacking occur; the idea being you stack a bunch of DPS and healer builds in one big clump and they can be extremely difficult to take down unless proper counters exist.

Nick noted, “It’s funny you should mention that, because early on that was a very common thing where people would essentially create a giant PBAoE bomb. That was actually super popular in Dark Age of Camelot.

To counter that, there’s a skill called Anti-Magic Field that drops down a bubble where anyone who tries to cast a spell will get zapped: they’ll be silenced and take a bunch of damage. So if you’re an opposing sorcerer and you’ve got that on your bar, and see a group getting ready to do a PBAoE bomb, you drop that down and all they do is stun and silence themselves.

Anti-Magic Field is interesting in that it provides a strong counter for that, but it’s also an Ultimate, so it takes a pretty long time to charge. But then there’s kind of that risk vs. reward layer about using it. So you can potentially bait it and get a player to use it too early and then do the bomb immediately after.”

ESO and Next Gen Consoles

The launch delay announcement for ESO during E3 2013 caught a lot of people’s attention, and became one of the biggest news stories out of the event for MMO gamers. What’s interesting is that there hadn’t necessarily been any specific dates previously announced, other than a loose target window for the latter part of 2013.

That said, the other major part of that announcement involved Elder Scrolls Online being developed for the upcoming PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, keeping with the cross-platform release model that helped both Oblivion and Skyrim become such huge commercial successes. While that announcement obviously needed to be held back until after Sony and Microsoft had their grand reveals, we couldn’t help but ask Nick how development on the new consoles had been going so far.

“I think the main thing we discovered was that we were already headed in a certain direction with the style of game we were making in terms of a lot of things that are in common with modern console RPGs. So the technology just happens to line up really well with where we are in our schedule. So the technology is there and we can do it, and the design of the game didn’t have to change. It was more a case of making a few tweaks here and there, but fundamentally the game is identical. That allows us to present the same game across all platforms.”

In terms of any special considerations that needed to be made for things like the pacing of combat or the active dodging mechanic, Nick went on to note, “For someone like me who is into the nitty gritty details of it sure, but for the majority of players, not so much. There are some things like locomotion or run animations where you have to make those a bit smoother to account for joysticks. Then you also have to make sure the keybindings work across everything.

So there are some minor things here and there, but we haven’t had to adjust any major mechanic as we intended it to work in the PC version of the game.”

Still no word on whether a special netbook client for ESO will be made available, but we’ll keep you posted on any new developments in that department.

Original TenTonHammer Article

Minecraft: 11 Million PC Sales; Millions More than World of Warcraft

Kind of unbelievable that Minecraft has been picked by over 25 million users across all platforms. What a remarkable feat from a cult classic game of build-your-own adventure!

Minecraft

Minecraft developer Mojang has sold more than 11 million copies on the PC. For a game that started on the PC, the Xbox version regularly reaches the top of the Xbox Live Arcade charts. The Xbox 360 edition has sold over 6 million copies and the Pocket Edition for mobile has sold over 10 million copies. And yes, Minecraft will be available on the Xbox One!
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