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The final beta stress test weekend for The Elder Scrolls Online has been and gone. It brought a new version of the game that addressed issues (or at least perceived issues) from the last two – the tutorial has been streamlined and is skippable for any alts you may make, and the starter islands after the tutorial are now optional. NPCs now have collision detection, which makes the combat feel a bit more physical, and some of the bastard hard solo content has been tuned to be less frustrating to the average player. Unfortunately, the build still fell short of the level of polish that Rift, or even GW2, had at this stage. There were still some quests that were difficult to advance due to bugged-out or no-show NPCs. The UI would still get stuck in conversation mode and have to be reloaded to get back to the serious business of adventuring, and I saw a couple of keeps in Cyrodiil with invisible sections of wall (not sections that had been destroyed by siege engines – these walls were there, just completely transparent). None of the bugs were game-breaking, in that they could be worked around if the player has the will to, but you don’t really want to see that sort of bug when you’re about to go live and it creates a bad impression for players who haven’t made up their mind about the game yet.

I find this sort of thing because I DO like this game and I am willing to work around problems, but it annoys me when I have to do that and I fear that the game will suffer because a lack of polish drives too many players away. Zenimax have done the hard stuff really well – mass battles in Cyrodiil run incredibly smoothly compared to ones in DAoC (slideshow city) or GW2 (where culling was used to save performance, at the cost of people dying to invisible zergs). The landscapes are varied and full of points of interest, the quests are well-written, the voice acting is at least as good as SWTOR’s and possibly even a smidgen better, and then they go and screw it up because some sodding harpy won’t spawn for ages. I can forgive ESO a lot – I just wish I didn’t have to.

As an aside – if anyone asks why I like the game enough to put up with a few rough spots, THIS is why…

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