This past week Elder Scrolls Online’s Creative Director, Rich Lambert, stated on a Twitch Livestream that the Champion Point cap would no longer be raised for the “foreseeable future”. This is a serious departure from the expected 30 Champion Point increase that most ESO players have come to expect with each quarterly Update. He also mentioned that Zenimax would be taking a closer look at the game’s Champion System moving forward, and re-evaluate it all together. What does this mean for ESO players, both new and old? That’s exactly what we’re going to dive into in this article.
ESO Champion Cap to Remain Fixed
By locking the Champion Point cap to 810, players can no longer improve their character via the Champion System. This really only leaves gear, or Sets, as the sole form of progression for end game players. While they can still obtain Skill Points via Quests and new Skyshards, most end game players have no shortage of these, and so I have not included them. And, while ESO is by no means as “hardcore” as other MMOs like WoW and Rift, one has to wonder how long time veterans of the game will receive this news.
Champion System Pluses and Minuses
The Champion System was originally created to give players a sense of progression after they had reached max level, and effectively replaced the old Veteran Ranks. Initially there was no cap on how many Champion Points you could have, but this was abused by players who “grinded” there way to the highest levels (over 1000), so that they were overpowered. And since the average player didn’t have the time or mentality to go farm for days on end as well, a cap was added to help level the playing field. Since that time, the cap has been steadily raise to be what it is today: 810.
It provides players with passive benefits to damage, recovery, protection and even healing. But it also increases the amount of Magicka, Health and Stamina they have, further enhancing your character. This is certainly progression, and one that can be felt in a big way, particularly between Champion Ranks 0-300. But is it the best way?
I think most players would agree that the incremental increase from Update to Update is not really felt at this point due to diminishing returns. It has not been real progression since about Champion Rank 600, and because the requirements for Sets have not changed in all that time, it is more of a “false” progression. And, even if these things were not true, max level players usually reach the new cap in a matter of a week, while low level players just fall further behind. This leaves neither group happy.
What Does the Cap Freeze Mean?
Honestly, you will hardly notice the change. It is a good move by Zenimax while they figure what they want to do with the Champion System, but it is a bit like putting a Bandaid on a cut that needs stitches. Sure it will slow down the bleeding, but it isn’t ultimately going to resolve the problem. This freeze will allow lower level players to catch up, which is good, and it will provide the opportunity for Zenimax to balance the game with greater ease.
Many of the game’s Group content (Dungeons, Trials, Arenas) have become trivial because of the slow and steady power creep over a number of years, and this makes it possible to re-balance them based off a max level that isn’t going to change in the near future. This should make for a better Group Dungeon/Trial experience by all players, and is something I am looking forward to, even if not yet announced.
How Do You Have Progression Without Having Progression?
This is the exact problem that Zenimax faces, and frankly one many developers of online multiplayer experiences face. How to do you create a sense of accomplishment without giving some players too much of an advantage over others? The answer to this is via equipment, or more specifically, the game’s amazing Sets. Zenimax has clearly caught on to this because many of the game’s Trials now have “Perfected” and “Normal” versions of each Set. This lessens the gap between the “hardcore” and the average, but does provide a benefit for the former, hopefully satisfying both groups.
In addition, they have taken the time to revisit older Sets, revamping them into better more viable versions. They did revamp even more Sets with the Wrathstone Update, so this is something I think we can expect to continue in the future. Hopefully they will make equipment THE progression that players desire, and that newer players are perfectly happy not having, until they have it.
The Future of ESO
The biggest issue that Zenimax will have over the coming year is deciding what to do with the Champion System. I think it’s clear to see at this point, that while there is nothing seriously broken with it, it no longer serves the purpose of providing progression to end game players. This leaves them with 3 options: 1) remove the System all together, 2) replace the System with something else or 3) leave it there. I want to take a look at what each of these things would mean for the game in this section.
Keep Champion System at 810
First let’s look at what it would mean to just leave the cap at 810, or even agree to raise it again at some point. If by the end of 2019 Zenimax has not announced any changes to this particular aspect of the game, I would bet money that we will not see any. This would be a huge gamble for them because they know it isn’t a great system, but it may be easier to leave it than “fix” it. Now I don’t think that would make them popular with their user base, but I’m sure this decision is being weighed on dollars and cents, and Rich would have to convince the higher ups that it’s worth the investment. Something he may or may not be able to do.
If this were to occur then the game would stay largely the same, and the whole game would be re-balanced around CR 810, which wouldn’t be so bad. The biggest downside is that there would be no progression outside of Sets, and that is something I have mixed feelings about. Perhaps this is why most MMOs only raise their caps once a year, and maybe it is just the growing pains of an MMO trying to do something different.
Replace The Champion System
If Zenimax should decide to replace the Champion System then they have to figure out just exactly with what they will replace it. I’m sure they are spending a bit of time looking at other MMOs to see what they are doing and if they can do something similar, but my guess is at this stage that they are still investigating. I don’t think it’s a matter of whether Rich and Co. want to replace the system or not, but more of how to do it. Watching the Live Stream last week, you could easily see that there have been discussions about it, but they have not reached a decision.
Of the 3 options this one is perhaps the hardest to pull off, because it could potentially break the game if done wrong. The problem with adding new things into an already complex equation, is that sometimes it’s hard to see all the possible issues it could bring before they are live. I fully expect Zenimax to take their time to make this decision, so I think we’ll be waiting the better part of the year for news on whether this is happening or not.
Remove Champion System
If Zenimax should decide to remove the Champion System they would have to re-balance the entire game around level 50, which is a LOT of work I’m sure. What makes this the least likely option in my opinion is 2 things. First, if you’re going to re-balance the whole game anyway, why not add a new system. And second, if you take away the Champion System and don’t replace it with something else, players may be left feeling “gimped” if they aren’t as powerful. Players hate nerfs, and they will not be happy if they are ALL nerfed at once.
It’s clear to me that Zenimax is aware of the problems with the Champion System, but what remains to be seen is how they will address it. They have taken their first steps by locking the cap at 810, and they’ve been steadily working on improving Sets to give players a better sense of progression there, but where we go from here is anyone’s guess.
I don’t think we will have our answer until close to year’s end, and I think it is more likely than not we will see some sort of replacement. When Zenimax removed Veteran Ranks, they had already added the Champion System, and so I feel somewhat confident they will do something similar here. ESO has been heading in the right direction for quite a long time now, and I think this could be a great opportunity to make another solid improvement to the game.
Be sure to check out our Wrathstone Breakdown Article coming soon!