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The Balancing Act: Vampires and Werewolves! (THIS IS NOT MY GUIDE)


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Elder Scrolls Online

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The Balancing Act: Vampires and Werewolves! (THIS IS NOT MY GUIDE)

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.

One of the most enjoyable experiences in Skyrim is gaining the power of becoming either a werewolf or vampire, and then using that power to achieve your goals… nefarious or otherwise. Nothing is more satisfying than jumping onto your victim’s chest and ripping their head off with your massive jaws, or having the power to literally suck the life from everyone around you to make yourself immortal. Nevertheless, great power comes with great responsibility, and balancing these abilities can be as nightmarish as an undead werewolf!

While we know for a fact that players will be able to gain the ability to become werewolves and vampires, there isn’t a great deal of information about how this will function in The Elder Scrolls Online. Paul Sage himself mentioned these abilities in the introduction video when explaining how perks could be chosen by the player to allow for the customization of characters, such as the ability to summon followers or pets. These are NOT the same as skill perks, which are awarded each time you gain a combat level and used to boost your attribute pools of stamina, magicka and health. Rather than leveling your skills, the perks that Paul Sage mentioned will most likely be tied to quest lines and achievement rewards, rewarded from exploring your world rather than training your combat levels. While we've been told that werewolves will be present throughout the cities of Tamriel and vampire houses will be scattered throughout the land, Zenimax has left us (as always) begging for more details!

The implementation of these perks needs to be thoroughly thought out and analyzed due to the fact that such a large percentage of the community will be interested in becoming a werewolf or vampire. If the active or passive abilities related to these perks are too powerful, we may end up seeing something very similar to an online MMO version of Twilight, where players will be forced to choose becoming either a werewolf or vampire just to keep pace with competition (Team Jacob FTW!). In the end, it all comes down to implementing systems that prevent players from making a decision they may regret later, and ensuring that the abilities associated with each perk are balanced in world-wide combat.

One difficulty that will be faced is determining how often we’ll be able to use the vampire and werewolf perks. Zenimax has claimed that there won’t be any cool downs for our special abilities, but they haven’t gone into great detail about the use of specialty perks. One option would be that we could only use them once every 24 hours, while another is to design them as ultimate abilities that require the player to gain finesse. These would limit how often players can access the perk and prevent it from being spammed on the battlefield.

The next step in implementing them will be to determine the effects of the perks themselves, and how players will be both hindered and benefited from choosing to possess them. Vampires will most likely possess increased strength and agility, but how Zenimax plans to implement sun damage, the weakness to fire and the insatiable craving for human blood is unknown. Ideas for implementing lycanthropy are limited to turning into a ferocious beast with increased speed and the power to heal from devouring your victims, but it might be interesting to see how players react in PvP and PvE when the perk wears off and they’re left without any equipped armor or weapons in the middle of a battle!

Another effective way to balance these abilities is to make them primarily end-game rewards. There’s a very good chance that we’ll see the ability to become a vampire as a final reward due to the fact that Molag Bal is actually the father and creator of vampires in Nirn. This could potentially tie directly into the main quest, along with the ability to turn into a werewolf (although this is a power provided by Hircine, god of the hunt). Players should have a full understanding of what the consequences will be for becoming a werewolf or vampire, if any such consequences exist. If becoming a vampire or werewolf is too easy, players may choose to become one and greatly regret the decision once they reach a higher level and begin to design their character for end-game.

Zenimax could also limit how many people choose to become vampires or werewolves by tying these perks to the Mundus Stones, also known as Guardian Stones in Skyrim. This would ensure that players can change the perk at will while still preventing them from changing it multiple times per day (Mundus stones will most likely be chosen once every 24 hours) and ensure that you can never be a vampire and werewolf at the same time. This will also make players question if they really want to choose those particular perks, as there may be others that would be much more useful to them depending on how they play their character. The requirement to complete a quest could also be implemented in order to access the location of Mundus stones, or to gain the knowledge of how to access its powers.

It will also be interesting to see if Zenimax designs these perks so that NPCs will react to the fact that players have chosen to become a werewolf or vampire. In Morrowind, many people would outright refuse to talk to you if they discovered you were a creature of the night, limiting what side quests you had access to and the locations you could safely travel to during the day. This existed in Skyrim to a lesser extent, including the fact that NPCs would outright attack you if you ever reached the final stages of vampirism. Implementing a system like this will tie directly into the roleplaying aspect of the game, and its removal will disappoint many players, including me.

Finally, Zenimax will need to think long and hard about if vampirism and lycanthropy are going to be viewed as diseases instead of blessings, and if players will have the choice (or even a reason) to cure themselves. This will only come into play if the perks related to these abilities aren’t tied to activation perks such as Mundus Stones, or there are effects that hinder the player that may result in them changing their mind. Finding a cure to these diseases could be an entire side-quest series, and I hope that it takes some effort on the part of the player to discover how to do so. This also leads to if players should be able to cure themselves whenever they want, or if there will be a limit to the number of times you can access the cure. Some players may change their minds multiple times about possessing these diseases, and Zenimax will need to provide these "flip-floppers" with a system that both limits and provides enough freedom for all players to be comfortable with the system.

If Zenimax is unable to balance these abilities (but as long as they're careful, it should work out), there ARE canon ways for players to be unable to exhibit the distinctive signs of Lycanthropy and Sanguinare Vampiris. One example they could use for Lycanthropy is the fact that the ritual used to become one involves pledging your soul to Hercine, but your soul has already been stolen by Molag Bal. Another example may deal with an understanding of how Sanguinare Vampiris actually works as a disease. The reason that players need to sleep before they become a vampire is because the disease actually kills you, resurrecting you as undead; this results in the physical characteristics associated with the disease, such as pale skin or the inability to age. If players resurrect at Wayshrines after their death, how can they die in their sleep to become vampires?

While many solutions exist to ensuring that vampirism and lycanthropy don’t become overpowered in The Elder Scrolls Online, we should be on the lookout for ways to improve these perks and how they will ultimately tie into both PvE dungeon raids and PvP battles in Cyrodiil. Allowing lower leveled players to access such a powerful ability may remove the challenge from the game, while leaving the perks too weak will result in their disregard by end-game. We can expect that Zenimax will ensure that all information regarding these diseases will be canon, as this is one promise that they’ve continually emphasized. I for one will be excited to see how they plan to implement these special abilities, and can’t wait until more information regarding them is available from the Beta testing!


xKordraGx posted at 2013-04-13 23:14:36

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