Elder Scrolls Online – Pillage, then Burn!

It’s Patch Day for Elder Scrolls online! The new DLC, Dark Brotherhood, will be available… well, it will be available when it’s available. You know how Patch Day goes. There was a patch, then an emergency patch to patch the patch and…

Suffice to say, I’m writing this article instead of playing in the new Dark Brotherhood content. (Which will feature, among other things: Assassination bounties, poison-making, and CRAFTING BAGS!)

Crafting Bags… mmmm….

Where was I? Oh yes. This article, while not necessarily thoroughly planned out as such, is going to be chock-full of interesting and fun tidbits, as well as a bit of fan-girling.

One of the things I love about this game is, you can take or steal just about anything. (SO MUCH LOOT!) Of course, there are consequences to stealing. If someone sees you, you get a bounty put on your head. Too high of a bounty, and the guards will kill you on sight and take your ill-gotten gains.

It is with this in mind that I remind you all: Pillage and plunder first, THEN burn.

Pillage
Pillage

Pillage first…
Screenshot_20160524_000711

THEN burn!

Screenshot_20160524_000724

And unlike “other games,” the destruction you wrought doesn’t simply fade away, leaving you wondering just wtf was the point. This is another stable I returned to about 10 minutes later. The fire has caught nicely.

Screenshot_20160524_001825

Barrels, sacks, and crates aren’t the only things you can loot. We’ve also got little troves of treasure, just waiting to be plundered. This is what a “Thieves Trove” looks like in the world.

Screenshot_20160524_003126

You are warned that it is theft, with red lettering instead of white.

Screenshot_20160524_003058

Of course we stole it! The booty:

Screenshot_20160524_003204

When harvesting nodes in the wild, you can leave the “Role Play” aspect in tact, and just hunt for things to harvest. Here is a shot of what some of the harvestables look like if you stumble across them:

Screenshot_20160524_001627

They’re quite easy to miss (except the blue ones), so if you have no patience for the hunting-gathering and just want your shiny lights to show you where in Sam-Hill your gatherables are, fear not! There’s a skill point for that.

Screenshot_20160524_001638

Ahh, that’s better. It also makes night-gathering a breeze.

If you’re REALLY lazy, there are in-game NPCs to gather for you, once or twice a day. They don’t bring in much, but sometimes they send the rare items. You don’t actually see them in game, but their presence is made known through their letters, which are often tiny little story-arcs all on their own. My enchanter employee has had a bit of a rough time of it at the local tavern, as you can see:

cropped memo

There are all kinds of things in the world of Tamriel to discover and explore.

Come join us!

Screenshot_20160516_045552

Loading Screen

Polrena Reviews… Elder Scrolls Online!

Summary:

Graphics/Sound: 4/5

PVE: 4/5

PVP: 4/5

End Game: 4/5

Community: 4/5

Elder Scrolls Online: From the Wikipedia: “The Elder Scrolls Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing video game developed by ZeniMax Online Studios. It was originally released on April 4, 2014 for Microsoft Windows and OS X. It is a part of The Elder Scrolls action fantasy video game franchise, of which it is the first open-ended multiplayer installment.”

Elder Scrolls Online is an online, multiplayer version of the Tamriel world, the same world found in the beloved games Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. I’m delighted to say the current version of the game has captured much of what made Skyrim so playable.

Gold: the standard, in-game monetary unit.
Crowns: Purchase with Real Money at the marketplace. Can be used to purchase vanity items, Downloadable content expansions, and trifles.
Alliance Points: Currently gained from PVP experience, used to purchase PVP potions, PVP things, siege items, and more.
Tel Var Stones: Honestly, I have no idea. I must not have gotten that far yet.

Elder Scrolls Online (Hereinafter referred to as “ESO”), is a “Buy to play” game, with optional subscription and expansion choices. You must purchase the game, either online through the website or through associates such as STEAM, or a hard copy version from your favorite gaming retailer. It runs about 60 US dollars for the basic game. After that, your online experience can be completely free: no monthly subscription needed, and many players choose this. There is PLENTY of content without the additional expansions, especially in the first few months of playing. There are, however, additional purchasing options. You may purchase Crowns with real money, allowing you to purchase downloadable content (“DLC”), otherwise known to most gamers as expansions. These expansions —err, DLC— are forever accessible if purchased via Crowns. The other way you can go is to purchase a monthly subscription – which I have – which grants access to every DLC, for as long as I have my “ESO Plus Membership” subscription. When the subscription ends, so does the access to the DLC. The neat part of this is, your monthly subscription gives you 1500 Crowns! You can save up your crowns and purchase the content if you want to end your sub, but keep the expansion content. There are currently three expansion/DLCs available: The Imperial City, Orsinium, and Thieves Guilds, with a fourth, The Dark Brotherhood, planned for late May.

Graphics/Sound:

Elder Scroll Online’s graphics are breathtaking. I expected a shoddier, rougher look than Skyrim, and was pleasantly surprised with the feel and detail of Tamriel. I don’t have a high-end computer, but I can run high graphics without Lag, which impressed me even more. No sacrificing graphic quality for performance! The movement impressed me, as well. The grass moves like grass. NPCs move around like people and have conversations with each other that don’t inlcude you. Butterflies and frogs and fireflies zip around (which you can catch!) adding to sense of a living, breathing world. The zones are intelligent, so you aren’t stepping from desert to arctic wasteland to jungle inside 5 feet. It’s probably the most beautiful game I’ve played.

Sounds and music are above average, with a minimum amount of sound options available. The music background music is neither irritating nor exactly inspiring, but the changes do let you know whether you’re in combat or out, in a town area, or near goodies like thieves troves, so the musical cues do their job well. As near as I can tell, the bards only know two songs, which I call “Red Diamonds” and “Sway as We Kiss.” The game tries to fool you by sometimes playing the songs without lyrics, but those minstrels don’t fool me one bit. I’ve spent enough time in the taverns to know “Red Diamonds” when I hear it! If I had one complaint about the game, the bards’ limited repertoire would be it.

Pros: Pretty!

Cons: Red Diamonds!

Random flavor skeleton in a corner
He must have played “Red Diamonds” once too many times

PVE:

Currently, the leveling system is: 1-50 regular levels, then 1-16 “veteran” levels, with a “Champion” point system at the vet level. However, vet levels will soon be going the way of the dodo, leaving us with levels 1-50 plus champion points.

During your leveling from 1-50, you earn two sets of points: attributes and skills.

Attributes are health, magicka, and stamina. Like every MMO ever, your health affects how much damage you take before you die. Magicka is both how many spells you can cast, and how effective they are. Stamina is the non-caster version of stamina, for the sword and bow types. You can pick where to put your attributes, which makes for some interesting build choices. Want a stamina sorcerer? Sure, why not. A magicka tank? Anything you want, buddy. You aren’t even limited to what kind of armor you can wear. Put that healer in heavy armor, if you feel like it!

Skill points are something else entirely, and you put them where ever you want to. You can put them into spells, crafts, armor, passive skills, whatever the blast you feel like putting them into. (Pro-tip though, you’re going to want a bunch in your class abilities. You could probably get away with your basic attack, but I don’t recommend it.) While you only get 1 skill per level, you also get skill points for completing certain quests, killing some boss mobs, or you get 1 skill point for every 3 “Skyshards” you find in the world… and there are a LOT of them out there.

Champion points, which you start earning at 50, are extra little perks such as extra resists, faster regeneration of magicka, health or stamina, extra critical power, and the like.

Questing: Yes, please! None of that annoying “Go here, kill X mobs, rinse repeat” from ESO! Like Skyrim, you have objectives, yes, but the mobs you kill are incidental to the objective, and are usually only because they’re in the way. There is lots of talking, and clicking on things to make them go, puzzles to solve, helpless men to rescue… The main story runs throughout, with side quests in addition to alliance quests that run tandem with the overall story arc. I even completed some of the out of order, which gave entirely new spins on what I thought was going on! In one, after doing the level 40 quest line, I tried to kill off a character in an early 20’s level quest, because I didn’t like what the character did later on… only to find out what my choosing that action was what make the …being… so unlikable. I guess even ESO hates a paradox! Well done, writers.

If you hate quests, you may not care for this aspect of the game much. There are map icons which indicate where you should go, but there is no golden path as there was in Skyrim. You’re just going to have to run around and find it yourself. (Hint to non-American players: “Throwing” a lever means you find a switch and push it. You don’t actually throw anything.)

Land ownership:

None, but rumors are that player housing is panned for some point in the future.

Customization:

The dye customization is interesting. You can dye any piece of armor that you like, for free, as many times as you like, but the trick is, you have to unlock the dyes first. You can unlock dyes through quests and achievements.

Trade: In what has to be an MMO first, there is no global auction house, which takes some getting used to. The theory is, when you have a global auction house, said auction houses’ prices and availability of items can be monopolized by one guild or even one person. Instead, ESO uses a system in which you can join up to five player-created guilds at once. Each guild, if it has over 50 members, can have a store. You can purchase from any guild store that you find in the world, but you can only put items up for sale in your own guilds. This has kind of an interesting effect, where you can join a guild or two for social reasons, grouping reasons, or trading reasons, or any combination thereof. I have three guilds I do extensive selling with, for example, with two social guilds, one a rather nicely hardcore group that executes dungeons with precision, and another social guild with lots of chatting and new people (like me) trying to figure out how to just play the game. The guild system fosters a very comfortable gaming community, where everyone tends to get along because there isn’t a whole lot of cut-throat competition for resources or customers. Everyone can be a master craftsman. Just because your guild has one, doesn’t mean you can’t be one, too!

Crafting:

Happy to report that unlike some games, you don’t have to limit yourself to only picking one or two or three things you want to do with crafting, and being forced to level alt after alt in order to pick up the others. The skill points system means you can put points wherever the hell you want to. I was initially advised to only pick two crafts. I blew that advice off, and am now happily crafting clothing, weapons, staves, and enchantments. There is a 1-50 progression for crafting, with one skill point needed every 10 or so levels. Within that progression, there are other skills you can choose to pick up, using your skill points, such as free daily materials, glowy materials in the wild, extra research slots, and more. (Did I mention that gathering is NOT a skill? Gather whatever you want, whevener you want.)

Like most MMOs, your crafting will take increasingly better materials to make increasingly better items. Where it gets better than other MMOs is in the research! There are a number of “sets” available to craft found around Tamriel, but each set requires a number of known “traits” in order to craft. For example, let’s say you want the “Seducer” set to increase your Magicka recovery and max amount of Magicka. You’ll need to have researched at least 3 “traits” from other armor, for each piece you want to make. That’s three for the light helmet, three for the chest, three for the boots, etc. You can learn up to 9 traits, with increased research time per trait. The first is 5 hours. The fifth is five days. (I haven’t gotten beyond five yet.) This is where the community comes in handy! You’re quite likely to run into a crafter who is happy to make whatever you want, for the materials and tip. Your guilds wants you in good armor, and the armor materials themselves are relatively inexpensive. It’s the research time that’s the killer!

You’ll also have fun trying to gather all the different “styles” of armor (because who wants to run around in a robe that looks exactly like everyone elses’?) All in all, its a complex but fascinating system. I’m working on a spreadsheet.

Pros: CRAFT ALL THE THINGS!

Cons: Improving your items can be pricey.

The other white meat
Don’t ask where that stat food came from.

PVP:

No global PVP. However, there is an entire huge zone of PVP content, in which you fight for strategic points such as lumbermills, and the on to siege the castles and keeps. Bring your healers, your trebuchets and your catapults!

Pros: Balance! I know, I know, I was stunned, too. I woudln’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t (stealthed) watched two max-level dudes try to duke it out for over six minutes without either one of them making any headway. After a while they stopped fighting and sort of walked away together. I like to think they were going for a beer.

Cons: You can ONLY fight alongside your NPC-guild alliance members, so if you’re with the NPC alliance, Daggerfall Covenant, while your PC guildmates are Aldmeri Dominion, forget it. Unless you want to see who can wipe the floor with the other, of course.

End Game:

I haven’t gotten to the end game yet. I imagine it’s more dungeons and better gear. ESO dungeons so far have been fun , and don’t feel very grindy and boring. The bosses have unique challenges to overcome (you ever tried lockpicking yourself out of a cell while your party mates scream at you to hurry up so you can heal them? Ya. Unique.) They’re also not all the SAME dungeons, with different mobs scattered around. Each feels very different from the others, with different layouts, design, and length.

Community: The community is amazing. My personal hypothesis is, this is not a game where the objective is to screw someone else over, so it isn’t attracting the kinds of players who only play a game to screw someone. *cough*ArcheageEve*Cough* You’re not smashing someone else’s ships, fortresses, castles, or trade supplies. It’s more of a multiplayer get-along-gang game, where cooperative play is actually encouraged. Very refreshing.

As games go, I highly recommend this one. You should try it.

Rebuilding

I found him! He’s here! Well, he WAS here.

Winet. He was here, on this strange, green planet. Like me, he had woken up with no recollection of how he arrived. Though we began with no food, shelter, or friends, Winet quickly rectified all three lacks with his customary efficiency. I’m not sure why his energy and capabilities continue to surprise me. Within a day, we had two stout farmhouses in our possession. Within a week, we owned several small tracks of land.

An earthshake destroyed everything we’d built, in less than a fortnight.

Undaunted, we began again. And again.

It’s a bit lengthy to go into. The endless days melted together as we chopped wood, mined ores and metals, and gathered grains and other flora. Some we traded, some we used. My own contributions to our little homesteading seemed insignificant compared to his tireless efforts, but he didn’t seem to mind. Within a few more fortnights, we each had our little homes, with plentiful gardens, a little fleet of ships to take us on our trade routes overseas, mechanical haulers (laughable in comparison to the technology we were abducted from, but better than riding a foul-smelling beast of burden), and even a fishing vessel.

As we worked, I wondered how and why we were here, and what we could learn from this place to take back with us. I refused to believe we would not be going back. The new homestead was a distraction, nothing more, I firmly told myself over and over. Our land holdings increased to an impressive degree. We amassed a fine collection of “gold,” the planet’s currency, comparable in some ways to Interstellar Kredits, and set about to using the gold to increase our profits, and bribe other groups for information. With any luck, someone would know how we got here– and how to get back.

Having mentioned a portion of a trading plan to our group’s “leader,” Winet had been… well, someone else would have been horrified, Winet was just irritated… to find out that the plan had been bastardized to such a degree that it gained the group’s leader all the benefits we’d hoped for… but our little homestead was left vulnerable. In fact, the leader had gone so far as to pledge us into servitude to the group we’d fervently hope to trade with. This set-back impacted all of our long-term plans, surely, but worse, it removed what little sense of freedom we had worked to achieve. Neither Winet nor myself are strangers to negotiations, bargains, and self-sacrifice. The very idea that we had to ask an enemy’s permission to trade, however, and deliver our hard-earned goods to them for the privilege, was simply too much to bear. We left our group of “friends,” and the bid good riddance to the betrayer.

Within days, Winet concluded his own deal with the hostile faction. We worked harder than ever, having to overcome the little “off the top” that was needed to bribe our way past certain guards. Then, one day, he was gone.

I did not panic, at first. I am not, after all, his keeper, and we both appreciate a little time apart to pursue different interests. I checked his houses- he’d paid up the property taxes. Reassured, I knew he meant to be gone a length of time, then, and would return.

As the demolition dates for his properties grew closer, however, I grew alarmed. He should have been back by now. He would not have left me alone, incapable of managing our goals. This conclusion forced me to realize that I *could* manage them, albeit more slowly than he would have. He’s ever had more faith in me than I have in myself.

I set about to prepare for the demolitions, and, when the time came, I claimed the lands again. Soon after his disappearance, it was all I could do to keep and maintain the land, and could spare no extra time or effort into pursuing the original goal– to get off the planet. Bit by bit, though, fortified by Winet’s faith in me, I did a little trading. Then a little more, and a little more. I reached out to known allies and hostiles alike.

The trade agreement Winet had achieved worked for a while, but then fell through when the negotiator left– I asked around, and he had disappeared, just as Winet had. The pact’s failure led to my first crippling losses. I was forced to re-organize, scale back, and re-think the mission and plan.

With no way off this heap of dirt, at least for now, mind-numbing hard work keeps my mind off of my other crippling loss- Winet himself. He would not leave alone me on this Emperor-forsaken planet, had he a choice. I refuse to believe he has perished– like capsuleers, the denizens of this planet are reborn. I believe he has either found a way off, or was fetched back by whoever left him here. This means, to me, that my own way off will be by doing as he had done. To that end, I intend to finish what he started.

I am a builder, and a thinker. I am SMA.

Polrena’s Adventures

Polrena’s Adventures, Chapter 1

          “Incompetent” could hardly begin to describe the colossal failure of my clone download. This was sabotage.
          I had been in a spaceship. MY spaceship. But I can't recall which ship, or which system I was in, or which battle loomed in front of my team. Was it Fountain? Or were we headed to cause a distraction on the other side of the region?
          I don't remember exactly where I was before the blunder of some far off clone tech deprived me of not only everything I knew and loved, but my very identity itself.
          My life had been spent as a Caldari pilot, a capsuleer of New Eden, a devoted and loyal member of the Spacemonkey's Alliance. I flew haulers and interceptors, jump freighters and battleships. I built capital ships, supercapitals, titans. Then one day, it was gone. No, not just gone. Ripped from me. I can only begin to imagine what happened, some poorly trained technician-- or a frightened enemy – tampered with one of my medical clones. That's the only explanation that makes any sense. When the pod carrying my body was destroyed, the destruction of my pod SHOULD have triggered one of my authorized clones' downloads, enabling me to wake, consciousness intact, in a new body. A new body, but the exact same form I had been using for decades.
          I did not come to consciousness in a sanitary, sterile medical bay, deep within my comforting, pre-designated space station. The sounds of electronic equipment, the hum of the ventilation system, the hushed murmurs of medical technicians' voices did not welcome me back to Fade. I did not wake with recognition of my surroundings at all.
          I woke upon land. Honest-to-god dirt beneath my filthy new body. A strange new body. I did not feel comfortable in my skin. For one thing, I had fur. It was sized differently—taller, bulkier. My new muscles protested as I stood up, and reacted awkwardly to my wishes. Something uncomfortably foreign tickled between my legs. Even my mouth felt strange; the teeth fit together oddly. Around me, there were trees. Green, growing things on the ground, and sounds I could not begin to place. As though a pack of Fedos were crying somewhere in the distance. Everywhere, from all directions at once.
          My heart raced in panic. I must be planet-side somewhere, but where, and why? How did my consciousness get downloaded into a different body, and how did it get here? Detecting no immediate threat in my surrounding area-- barring the strange, far-off noises-- I tried to calm the thumping in my chest by breathing deeply and slowly, gathering what wits I had left.
          Sabotage seemed the only possibility. The data that comprised my sense of self, my memories and thought patterns, must have been either transported or intercepted, and downloaded into this strange new, furry form. There were no medical facilities near me. No technology at all within visible range. Therefor, I must have been transported dirt-side after the body switch. The “why” resolved itself for me from this deduction; even if I managed to get off this rock, I would have no Interstellar Kredits waiting for me in an account attached to this body. In a different form, I would have no credentials, no reputation. None of my friends would recognize me, nor would they believe me if I tried to explain. I was no one.
          A capsuleer is effectively immortal. Everyone knows that. He'd think I abandoned him. Refusing to contemplate that I might not see him again, I tried to force my mind to shut off that line of thinking.
          Winet. Oh god, Winet.

Monkey Culture – Respect

Respect

SMA is one of the best Alliances in EVE. We may not be the biggest or the baddest, but we do have heart. Our strength of will brings us together, makes us family. Our determination and cohesion helps us outlast those who would subdue or conquer us.

With the influx of new corporations and new members, it is perhaps time for a brief reminder of what SMA stands for.

First and foremost, we stand for each other. From the newest raw recruit to our most aged vets, SMA backs its people and rewards loyalty with loyalty. If you're in trouble, reach out and ask for help. Ask your corp mates, ask a diplo, ask in Alliance chat. When someone else is in trouble, go help them. In turn, the directorate will back you straight down the line and make sure you have a comfy, safe place to play.

To ensure SMA is a safe place, for all monkeys, no matter which game we play, there is a lot of information that doesn't get discussed in public. It may therefor feel like leadership is AFK, or doesn't care. The opposite is true- they play every day, and are accessible nearly 24/7 if the need arises. I can tell you from personal experience that while some decisions are easy and swift, other are carefully planned out, and some decisions are only made after weeks of agonizing debate-- and only what is in the best interests of the group as a whole will pass.

What does this mean for you, in your daily play? This means you have the right to be treated with respect, and also means you are expected to treat others with the same dignity. SMA is not your typical "Internet-Apocalypse Zone" where you may heap scorn on others, troll, or make personal attacks. To whit:

SMA is proud to have a high percentage of female players, for example, many in positions of leadership: diplos, starbase, training, CEO's, and FC's among them. Remarks that are personal attacks or misogynistic in tone, such as "jokes" about domestic violence and/or rape, are not welcome.

Similarly, we come from many countries around the world and come from a variety of backgrounds. While good-natured ribbing about Pommes and Kiwis may be tolerated, racist or ethnic slurs will not be allowed. Making such remarks WILL get you banned from Teamspeak, and repeated offenses may find you or your entire corporation kicked from the Alliance.

Other culturally sensitive topics you should be aware of: people with disabilities (please don't use the word "retarded," come up with something more original when you mean "dumb"), and LGBT people (The word "faggot" is not tolerated. Using "gay" or even "ghey" is expressly frowned upon and makes you look like a jerk). If you are anti-military, or have other strong political beliefs, this is similarly not the place for such discussions- we're here to play spaceships, not beat dead horses. If you, in turn, feel harassed or threatened while in a fleet, on comms, or in Alliance chat, let the person know they should stop. If the do not, copy the log and find a diplo.

If you are one of those people who absolutely MUST have someone to pick on, bully, or otherwise demean and belittle, here is a list of words which SMA finds culturally acceptable for use as a put-down:

MOA

TRI

Pandemic Legion

Spai

Fail

TEST

reset

Combinations such as "MOA Spai" or "TRI Fail" also work.

SMA is a team, and we are all on the same side. We come from all avenues of life, all over the world, and we expect that each one of you will treat everyone else with the same level of respect you deserve. Help each other when help is needed. Fight as one. Destroy our enemies. Long live the fighters!