Future Elder Scrolls Online players are already thinking about what race they want to play, which faction they want to be part of and where they want to explore first. Not many people are talking about joining the fourth faction or playing as a FOTM class character, yet. We all know about the three playable factions in ESO so you are probably confused by the title of this article. You probably assume I mean the Imperials, but it is actually something else.
Some Elder Scrolls Online players would like each faction to have different, unique classes. Some game designers make the same class across different factions have significantly different abilities. This is a method for giving each faction/class a unique feel and different playstyle. This is not inherently wrong, in fact, many including myself like this concept.
Balancing classes and different playstyles is a difficult matter online games have had to contend with and Elder Scrolls Online will be no exception. What is even more difficult is balancing factions with different classes or significantly different abilities. While balance is usually an ongoing process it gives rise to the Flavor of the Month(FOTM) class. FOTM players will switch to whatever class is the most over-powered. Also, it seems to be a fairly reliable way to find over-powered classes, simply looking at which classes are over-populated and how populations change after an update.
Elder Scrolls Online may suffer more than other games from the ongoing balancing due to characters being flexible. What if you didn’t have to make a new character to change to whatever the currently over-powered class/weapon/skill combination is? Even more people would be willing to switch since there are low barriers to entry for the other playstyle.
Now what if factions have different classes or significantly different abilities? If players are allowed to have characters of different factions on the same account there is not much holding them back from switching to the currently over-powered faction. The players that constantly switch to the most over-powered class/faction combination are what I refer to as the fourth faction of Elder Scrolls Online.
Many people have probably experienced this in other games and it can be annoying to players that are loyal to their factions either having a flood of rude, non-cooperative players in your faction, or constantly going up against a zerg. Limiting players to one faction, per server, per account does not necessarily prevent this problem, depending on the business model chosen.
One solution, at least to the fourth faction problem, is to give all factions the same classes. Of course there may be small differences, such as racial abilities and what not, but as long as they do not heavily affect a character’s combat abilities it will not be a problem. This is not to say it is impossible to balance factions with different classes.
Certainly, this does not prevent FOTM players. And there will always be players whining on the forums about one class or another being over-powered. I have no doubt ZeniMax will do their best to balance ESO classes and factions. However, balance is a long process and requires a mature, patient fan base to achieve the best results.
What do you think is the best way to prevent FOTM classes? What about preventing fourth faction players? Should these issues even be addressed or does constantly changing factions add a special flair to the game?
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