ESO – Trials on Lowbie Characters

Fans of EVE Online will tell you that one of the many unique features the game offers is… being able to join the endgame, immediately. As in: create a character, join a corporation, and fly into a nullsec battle.

Such a character might be cannon fodder, but the point is you can be there without needing to level up, without grinding gear, etc. You can immediately experience end game content (perhaps via a limited role available to low skill-point characters).

I would like to add ESO to this list. My guild started a low-level trials group, for levels 3-14 characters.

Yes, level 3 to 14!

This is possible since ESO scales your character up to level 50 cp 160 if you are below that. The cutoffs are 3 on the low end since you can’t leave the tutorial without getting to level 3, and 14 on the high end since 15 is where you get your weapon swapping. Basically, at 14 and below, you are a one-bar character.

The genesis of this was a dare more or less, given the level scaling and how people go on about how normal mode is so easy, a challenge was issued: take a group of low level characters into trial content and clear it.

Some folks were interested in doing this and we made a plan and tried it out.

It’s fun! Everybody has to pay attention to mechanics that regular characters can burn through these days. It’s tough because of limited skill availability – some of the better/stronger skills are higher rank meaning you’ll get to character level 15 before unlocking them. Tanks generally don’t have a ranged taunt, dps and healers are stuck without their usual toolkit, etc.

Thanks to the stickerbook, gear that drops is just as useful (i.e. fill your stickerbook and reconstruct on your endgame character) as regular drops.

We’ve cleared a few trials on lowbies: Asylum Sanctorium, Maw of Lorkhaj, Dread Sail Reef (this one took a very long time!), Sunspire, Kyne’s Aegis… we don’t always succeed – we failed the heal-check at the end of Cloudrest, the final fight against ghost Z’maja, but we do intend to return.

Our levels, 4 to 14, taking on Asylum Sanctorium!

The beauty of this is we’ve had players interested in trials literally create a new character, equip the starter gear (Forgotten Adventurer), and enter minutes later.

St. Olms, final boss of Asylum Sanctorium

Most of us are upgrading our gear by using whatever drops – it is fun to look at my level trial healer decked out in 5 pieces of Master Architect from Halls of Fabrication… at level 10 lol.

ESO – Cores

A few weeks/months ago, I was shopping around for 3rd, 4th, and 5th guilds to join. ESO let’s you join 5, no reason to not do it!

Lots of players join a trading guild, one that is dedicated to obtaining/maintaining a public trader – the kind that sells stuff to other players not in your guild. (Every guild lets you sell stuff to other guild members. This system works differently than every other MMO, except EVE Online come to think of it, so it isn’t intuitive).

I however, was after more chances to do vet content.

So I joined more guilds, and ironically, my own guild reorganized a bit, and now I’m in 3 “core” groups there. The original guild divided into a training guild, a hardcore trials guild, 3 social guilds, and a trading guild.

As it happens I’m in the training guild and one of the social guilds, and was generally keeping an eye on the schedule and signing up for “open” runs. Those are runs of trials which take anybody that qualifies (discretion of raid leader to set the requirements, typically requesting supports that can use certain set combos, dps that can parse certain minimums, or sometimes dps that can bring support sets like elemental catalyst, zenkosh, brittle, etc.)

Open runs are fine and all, but occur ad hoc so it is tricky to plan around doing them. Core runs are ones with a fixed roster and schedule – much better. If you can get into one.

The guild leader has been bugging people to offer more trials and more cores and it has paid off, enough players (knowledgeable, experienced at the trial they are running) have stepped up to offer core runs at various levels, and I joined 3 of them.

One is called “minions” and we are warming up with the Craglorn hard modes (Sanctum Ophidia, Aetherian Archive, Hel Ra Citadel) and then moving to progging vet Rockgrove.

One is called “sload-slotters” and we are warming up with Cloudrest +1 before moving to +2/+3 and then veteran Cloudrest.

One is called “scoundrels of tamriel” and that one picks a different trial every week, from Maw of Lorkhaj on (skipping the Craglorn ones since those were the original end-game and to get into Scoundrels one qualifier is having completed the Craglorn hardmodes).

I’m a fill in a 4th core, on a discord server that isn’t a guild, the ERR server. That one started with a small group that was running vet Sunspire, and I joined in to heal once or twice, and stayed around. That was months ago, now the server has exploded and runs a core vet Cloudrest, vet Sunspire, and usually one other trial a week. Membership is now about 300 players, discord admins are very active filling in all sorts of great info channels, organized events, and so on.

Anyway, the nice part of all of this is that I can actually play less – being in a few cores with a regular schedule (ok, for the next few weeks things are off due to holidays) means I don’t have to search every day for trials, I know I can do 2 to 4 a week. So on the off-days, or even before/after core days, I can jump on and pick something to do for an hour or so: writs/crafting and survey reports, dungeons achievements with my friends, storyline stuff (zone quests), overland exploration (delves, area quests), antiquities and lead farming, etc.

I’d like to get back to working through the overland content with my main, do a random dungeon or two on some alts (for the transmute crystals), and then play some other games so I don’t burn out. πŸ™‚

ESO – Design Issues

While I am happy to have a respectable parse, I think of an interesting design issue this system causes for ZoS.

ESO is the first game I’ve gotten seriously into the end-game. I know WoW had mythic levels, scaling raids, and I participated somewhat, but was usually a healer and not trying to maximize my DPS char.

I don’t know what the spread is in other games, but here, there is a 10x or more damage difference between novices and experts. Heck, there is a 10x increase in my own dps since I started playing again, and a 5x difference from when I became interested in more than overland content roughly 6 months ago!

Some of that is gear and level and so on, but all the same, I think you could take a novice and expert and give them an identical char (say on a test server) and the expert will easily do 3 or 4 times as much damage, possibly more. In this situation, some players will barely parse 30K. Other will reach 60K, while a smaller group will do 90K or 120K; entirely based on their skill at performing the rotation (weaving and uptimes) using the identical chars as the other player!

The experience these groups have against the content will be VASTLY different. The 30K group will face every mechanic, perhaps struggle or fail. The longer the fight, the more time for mistakes and the more resource drain on supports. The 60K group will proceed carefully and progress, the 90K group won’t have much trouble, and the 120K group will burn stuff down so fast it is almost trivial to them Both the 90K and 120K group will seek vet trials, the 60K group will find it difficult and challenging, the 30K group has no hope.

Also there is boss design where something happens every 10% health lost – e.g. Bahsei in Rockgrove, who summons adds every 10% health lost. The 40K group can wear him down and deal with adds, where the 120K group might actually need to throttle themselves or they will have multiple adds from killing him too fast!

I think that’s why we see the normal, veteran, veteran hard mode, and then trifecta (speed run, no deaths, vet hard mode) splits. Offer a difficulty level to each group that they can opt into.

Anyway, it’s been fun “getting good” and I still have a ways to go. It took a lot of work to go from 20K to 90K and it’s probably even harder to get to 110K. But it’s a fun goal to work for. I feel like I’m in a good spot, doing decent damage and also decent at healing. I need more practice tanking, and I plan to address that as well. I’d just like to be competent at each role to give myself max flexibility trying to find a slot in a group.

ESO – Damage Per Second

MMO players are familiar with damage meters and measuring DPS.

In ESO, if you use a target dummy, the game will report your DPS after the fight is over. This method is essentially the same as the player using a stopwatch and dividing afterwards, except the dummy reports in-game. I never fought a dummy in WoW but it’s probably the same there.

Many MMOs allow add-ons and DPS meters are some of the most popular downloaded/installed add-ons available. WoW has many (and probably more), LoTRO has DPS Meter, ESO has CMX, etc. FF14 has them too!

In FF14, as I understand it, using DPS meters to shame or embarrass another player is a bannable offense, starting with a multi-day suspension progressing to loss of account. The official policy is 3rd party tools are not allowed; they are tolerated as long as the results are not used in-game. The FF14 dps-meter situation is along the lines of Fight Club: don’t talk about it in public.

It fits in what I think is the overall atmosphere of the game – track your DPS for your own information, perhaps if you are in an extreme trials progression group you opt into getting measured to identify needed improvements for the group overall, etc. But if you are a player in the roulette system, you aren’t there to be ridiculed or harassed (also, maybe you are trying a new job out and aren’t 100% familiar with the skills and rotation) so the FF14 devs have zero problems banning offenders. And frankly, that is awesome.

In ESO, the guilds I am in request a certain threshold of damage before taking you as a participant in vet trials. The way it works for normal trials is typically: sign up, be level 50 and cp 160+, and have some coherent gear (two five-sets and a monster set). A few spots are reserved for leaders and experienced players, which means 8 or 9 spots are up for grabs by anybody on a first come first serve basis.

When you have the requested gear, DPS level, and sometimes trial clears, you become eligible for vet trials. In this phase, there are often various tiers that trial leaders request when they post a run. Something like “tier 2 supports (meaning tanks and healers with uptimes thresholds and a larger pool of gear to mix-n-match), tier 2 DPS with clear, have 4 spots for tier 1 DPS with no clear”. The specifics obviously vary.

A common threshold is 60k DPS. I’ve also seen 40K, and then +/- 5K from either of those. When I took my first parse, it was barely above 10K. Yes, 10K. It appeared to be an impossible hill to climb.

This is a story of how I went from 10K to where I am parsing today. πŸ™‚

My 10K parse was with a build I put together myself, drawing from various sources such as Arzyel, Lucky Ghost, Alcast, Hack the Minotaur, Deltia, Xynode… and more are out there. I would look over common skills and gear, and then work towards that. I also subbed in skills I liked, added more defense or self healing to be comfortable.

Stage 1 – 10K

In this phase, I was looking over suggested skills and gear, deciding what I liked, working on collecting the sets, having fun playing overland content, delves, and dungeons, but also interested in seeing what a trial was like.

I knew 10K was essentially minimum damage you could get by randomly hitting random skills. To sum up, it was terrible as far as group content was concerned.

This level of parse was against my own regular target dummy, the ogre we got for free from some event. It is better to parse against a trial dummy because that one supplies all the buffs and debuffs you can expect in a trial – that is, it gives group effects while fighting solo. It even spawns the occasional “restore resources” synergy, just like you would get in a trial from other player casting orbs.

The rule of thumb is you parse 2x against a trial dummy (21 million health) versus a regular dummy (6 million health). The trial dummy is preferred as a better test of your sustain and ability to solo fight through 21 million health.

So as a rough estimate, my 10K orge parse was the equivalent of a 20K trial dummy parse.

My rotation: use all the skills on front bar, swap, use all the skills on back bar, swap, repeat.

Stage 2 – 30K

To get to this level, I self-optimized my builds. Started to look at various DoT skills, and improve my rotation. I moved to fighting the trial dummy in a guild hall, which is more or less a free 2x. So I really moved up from parsing 20K to 30K through self-optimization and using a trial dummy.

ESO has a concept of light attacks and heavy attacks that I don’t remember from any other game. Basically, a light attack is a quick attack you can do for a bit of damage; a heavy attack takes ~2 seconds to channel, however it returns resources, and may trigger other effects. Both take no resources (magicka or stamina) to do.

In most other games I’ve played, in between using your skills while waiting for a global cooldown, your character auto attacks. As a player, you are only concerned with hitting your skill rotation on global cooldown.

In ESO, you can do something in between that cooldown – light or heavy attack. The ESO cooldown is 1 second, faster than any other game I’ve played, so it comes up frequently.

What helps gets you higher DPS is a combo of “light attack weaving” (putting one light attack in between each skill) and “animation cancelling” (starting the light attack and immediately cancelling the associated animation with another skill). As I understand it these are separate but related concepts and the playerbase generally refers to doing both as “weaving”.

Light and heavy attacks also help gain Ultimate, a resource needed to use Ultimate skills. If you never light or heavy attack (and don’t heal others or rarely block) you might wonder why your Ultimate charges so slowly or never…

None of this is explained well in-game.

There are a ton of videos on youtube on how to weave and animation cancel: Alcast has a nice summary, Xynode has a great video that helped me a lot.

So to get to this stage, I fixed up my build, started to practice weaving my rotation. By weaving well, you more or less sneak 2 skills into each cooldown. Before I didn’t grasp the animation cancelling portion and was doing a light attack and waiting a second, rhythmically performing skill, LA, skill, LA, etc. each taking a second.

My rotation changed: start with DoTs, use one or two spammable skills, use ultimate when it was up (now that I was light attack weaving I actually could use my ultimate far more often), swap bars as needed, and weave.

Stage 3 – low 50Ks

For this jump, I had to throw out my build and get a better one. For that I went to SkinnyCheeks (check the DPS guides tab). His builds and the kind of builds linked to by Liko cross into the high-end DPS builds. I migrated to DragonKnight as my main by this point, so I pored over the info.

I had enough Champion Points to pick the suggested stars/perks. I changed my Mundus stone. My gear was now a mix of decent dungeon sets, so the suggested gear was a new goal to strive for. I participated in my guild’s newbie trials series and got a few trials in every week, collecting gear.

I looked over the skill bar setup with great interest, and copied it. For skills/morphs I didn’t have, I worked on getting them.

My initial parse in this stage was in the low 50’s. I remember when I broke 20K with my own frankenstein build and was ecstatic that I essentially doubled my DPS by working on weaving and rotation. Now I got a 150% increase on top of that and it blew my mind.

New rotation: DoTs and bar swapping, use spammable until time to refresh DoTs.

~55K parse

Stage 4 – low 70Ks

I had a problem with Skinny’s build/rotation – sustain. I’d blow my resources out trying to do it and need to heavy attack for resources, or drink a potion, but ended up losing time to heavy attacks since I couldn’t sustain.

So I looked over the skills and selectively replaced a few, or cut them out of the rotation. Basically I shrank the rotation from all the skills suggested to fewer ones that had a good resource usage to damage ratio. I couldn’t make Molten Whip work so I used Stone Giant as my spammable.

I changed my food, using Lava Foot, because it was a single stat buff/sustain food. And the dummy doesn’t fight back so you can sacrifice health, defense, etc to parse higher. I changed the traits on my jewelry, from here on up you need the Bloodthirsty trait for the added damage.

I noticed that I regenerated a huge amount of resources when I used my Ultimate, so I made a point of working that into my rotation as a sustain method. It turns out the DragonKnight has a passive Battle Roar that is the reason.

With various tweaks, I got the modified rotation to where my sustain was sufficient. During the fight I would drain out of course, but by making a point of eating stamina sustain food (Lava Foot Soup-and-Saltrice), always grabbing the resource synergy the trial dummy provides, drinking the occasional tri-stat potion (free from daily login rewards so I have thousands of them), and using my Flawless Dawnbreaker Ultimate when it was ready, I was resource neutral. By the time my resources were nearly depleted I could recover a chunk and keep going. Essentially I stopped needing to heavy attack to replenish.

A trial dummy went on sale in the store and I bought it, so I could parse in my own house.

~72K parse

Stage 5- low 80Ks

By now I was wearing Arms of Relequen, Harpooner’s Wading Kilt, and had been using Kinras jewelry/weapons. For this jump I began subbing back some of the skills from the SkinnyCheeks build. Basically, my rotation expanded from 6 skills to 7 because I introduced an extra DoT into it. I was able to move from Stone Giant back to Molten Whip because an update changed resource usage, which helped – it used to cost 2000 magicka, and now is 1000 stamina and 1000 magicka (rounded off numbers of course).

I also finally farmed the Pillar of Nirn dagger so I changed from Kinras’s Wrath to Pillar of Nirn jewelry/weapons, the new meta. I made another skill sub, replacing a skill with Flames of Oblivion. I used Standard of Might instead of Flawless Dawnbreaker, which boosts DPS a bit because Standard of Might boosts damage including damage from the DoTs I am laying down.

Rotation is spammable and focusing on good DoT uptimes.

~83K parse

Stage 5 – low 90Ks

I am currently at this level, quite a climb from the 10K/20K days!

To get here from the previous stage, I essentially need 95% concentration on DoT uptimes. Start with DoTs and use spammable going back to refreshing DoTs. Well that sounds trivial but it is very tough for me to do. This level of DoT refreshing involves watching my skill bar constantly and refresh a DoT as soon as possible. It is mandatory to enable the setting that lets you watch timers on your backbar, or get an add-on that does it.

Back at the 70K level, I would generally refresh the back bar in one fell swoop – wait still all were expired then get them in one pass. That does not fly for reaching 90K. This means doing frequent bar swap, several in a row sometimes. It is a little exhausting in its own way. Bar swapping cleanly to go right into the weave takes practice as it is extra timing to get used to.

This level of DPS requires a good mastery of rotation, reflexively hitting the right button. Things like accidentally hitting the wrong skill or hesitating, and I can see the results in the real-time numbers CMX displays – a few seconds go by and DPS dips a bit. It’s recoverable but I can’t make too many mistakes without dropping under 90K.

Champion points matter but I went from ~50K and ~1700 CP to ~90K and ~1800 CP. By this point, I had enough to slot 4 for my build plus get the passive buffs from various unlocks, so those 100 CP didn’t play a part. I think it is somewhere around 1200 CP you can get all the key perks you need so I could have done this 500+ CP ago.

Some other changes suggested from resources in my guild – I swapped some Champion Point stars because I was at the crit cap and one buff wasn’t useful, while another was of even more benefit. Also swapped to a different monster helm for boosting one stat over another.

I am thrilled to parse in the 90Ks, even if the reality is more like this: out of 5 parses I will do 87K, 89K, 91K, 92K, 93K to average 90K but not always be in the 90Ks.

I cropped the pics from earlier shots to focus on the DPS number in the upper left. Here’s the full info the CMX provides for my all-time highest parse of 93583 damage per second:

~93K parse fight stats
~93K parse build/skills info

I’m no expert but I can extract the info I need from this. The good news is, I still have some upside available by tightening things up.

First, I can upgrade: gold glyphs, gold back-bar weapon, gold armor, gold jewelry (that is very expensive to do so it will definitely be last).

Second, my weaving average is 0.218s, lower is better. This is the average amount of time between a light attack and skill. Details for each skill are available, so lowering the average means working on firing off Barbed Trap faster for example, since that skill is a 0.3s weave. Meanwhile, Scalding Rune is 0.41s and even worse, Standard of Might is 0.57 seconds! OUCH those are really hurting my weave average and parse.

Third, examining the time column, and noting which DoTs aren’t getting refreshed as fast as possible. For example, Flames of Oblivion is 17.06 seconds, meaning I cast it just over every 17 seconds on average. But it is a DoT that lasts 15 seconds so I am losing 2 seconds of DPS due to letting it idle.

Might as well look all these up for my own benefit!

Noxious Breath26.1820~62.8
Venomous Claw26.1620~62.8
Barbed Trap26.1820~62.8
Flames of Oblivion17.0615~21.8
Scalding Rune31.6322~103.3
Standard of Might93.89??

There are subtleties here – both Barbed Trap and Scalding Rune have an arming delay, Carve can be refreshed early and stacked up to 30s. But I have long gaps and the largest offenders of the normal skills are Scalding Rune and Degeneration. Over a 4 min parse, those lost seconds are entire cycles of those DoTs that I’m losing.

Consider this, over a 4 min parse, 240 seconds, I would ideally do 12 casts of Venomous Claw (240/20), but I am only doing 9.2 (240/26.2). That’s what the Loss column is, how many extra skill cycles I could have under perfect refresh. Sorted this way, I need to work on Carve first, then Degeneration and Scalding Rune. Then reassess.

Standard of Might is a special case, as an Ultimate skill I need a different pool of resources to use it. So while it is up for 16s, I can’t actually cast it near that often. What I’ll need to do here is concentrate on using it ASAP every time, possibly compare with another parse where I use Flawless Dawnbreaker every time, and see if the damage buff for 16s is worth using FD at least twice as much (Ultimate cost is 125 vs 250). It could be I let SoM sit idle too long as well – at ~90 seconds I get 4 uses during my parse, maybe I could get 5?

My ratio of weapon attacks to skills is pretty good: 188 to 185. You want these about equal, meaning one light attack for every skill. If these are out of whack the reason is typically timing around the light attack – cancelling too early, or stated another way, firing off the skill too fast, before the light attack registers. Another timing issue to work on if this is the case.

Tighten all these up and I will see a DPS increase…. not sure how big though. I will find out. πŸ™‚

Stage 6 – 100K?

93K is my peak now, going from ~10K to 93K is almost an order of magnitude improvement by a combo of gear, build, rotation, and practice. And what is mind boggling is there is still roughly a 33% increase available – the very best players can pull ~125K!!

I feel like I’ll be practicing at the 90Ks for quite a while, working on the various things I can see in my CMX data. And that’s completely fine with me. I’d rather always parse in the 90Ks than only peak there when doing several parses.

A side effect of parsing well is they take less time. Obviously. But the impact on practice is huge. It takes a bit under 4 minutes to parse a trial dummy at ~90K, so I can squeeze that in here or there or do 2 or 3 in a row. Parsing at 20K would take ~4.5 times as long, 18 minutes. In that era of DPS, by the time I finished a parse I didn’t want to do another and be locked in for another 18 minutes! Group up with a friend and they often need 5 mins to finish something, I can squeeze in a 4 min parse. But if the parse requires 18-20 mins, you gotta specifically put that time aside.

At this point you might ask whether or not parsing is a useful exercise. This comes up constantly. Yes, it is artificial, you have a build with low health, no defense or healing, fighting a dummy that buffs you, debuffs itself, supplies resources, and doesn’t attack or move.

However, it is generally accepted that parsing is the only usable baseline, because it is solo and the conditions are equal for everyone. If you can’t parse 50K against the dummy, there is zero chance you can parse 50K against a trial boss.

Practicing the DPS rotation has also paid off huge for my healing, because it is a similar process: rotate through HoTs instead of DoTs, constant casting, don’t refresh early, use spammable and/or resource recovery (heavy attack) when there is nothing better to do. For supports there is the concept of uptimes which I covered a bit in a previous post.

Parsing teaches you to get all your skills out there ticking away, NOT refresh early, and do something else in any downtime you have. In actual content, you will need to reposition and/or avoid mechanics so that’s your downtime filled.

ESO – Logging

Many MMO players are familiar with logging or at least what a DPS meter does. I’ve recently discovered the logging capabilities in ESO and it is truly a wealth of information.

Logging is built into the game – to start/stop, just type /encounterlog in the chat box. You should see a confirmation message. Logs are written in your ESO directory. The file is simply a text CSV file and records just about everything you can imagine for the group.

To interpret the logs, most players use a site like ESO Logs. If you make an account, you can upload the logs and have a fantastic graphical UI to search around for all sorts of info.

I enjoy healing and dps, and am also trying to get more comfortable tanking. What I use the logs for, besides just randomly wandering through the info at whatever seems interesting, is gauging my “uptimes” when I’m healing.

Basically, healing in ESO means the usual thing of restoring health to players. But a significant component to the job is to buff the group, debuff the boss, provide resources or recovery, and perform misc tasks as needed. That last category depends on the trial; as an example, there are at least 2 trials where it is useful to have a “kite” healer who stays at range in order to deflect various boss mechanics. In certain situations, it is useful for the healer to have a taunt (!!) in order to draw attention (what also works is for the healer to slot a ranged interrupt and heal through the damage).

In a recent trial I did as a healer, Rockgrove, we were victorious at defeating the invaders (whew!) and afterwards I went to check my uptimes. One essential skill for all healing builds is Combat Prayer, a morph of Blessing of Protection which is a Restoration Staff skill so all classes can take it, provided the player uses a resto staff (and it is hard to imagine a healer not using a resto staff because class skills only go so far).

This skill is crucial because it provides Minor Beserk and Minor Resolve, giving the group +5% damage and boosted resistances.

I checked my contribution and I am providing this buff about 50% of the time. (Those huge gaps are non-combat times where we go over the mechanics for new folks. I drilled down into each boss fight and it looks like ESO Logs does the smart thing and ignores the non-combat times for the overall calculation).

So, that’s decent but could be better. It lasts 10 seconds so I am roughly only casting it every 20 seconds. I’m not an expert log reader but another possibility is I’m only getting roughly half the group in the cast, I think.

However it works out, I could be more careful with positioning and with refreshing, so for future trials I’ll concentrate more on that and see if my uptime goes… well, up.

Combat Prayer is just one of the skills, there are others skills and effects to look at too of course.

Sometimes I tank as well. I was in vet Sancum Ophidia as the off-tank, and I can do that same thing, check uptimes:

Hm… there’s that 50% thing again, I am “only” keeping the Powerful Assault buff up about half the time I could be. Something to work on. Another thing I can check is “Threat”:

I’m not sure how these numbers stack up – I have less experience as a tank. The Lamias I had ~48% tanking time on are adds in the final fight, and it did take me some time to locate and taunt them. (I have since remapped the controls for cycling enemies so it should be faster next time).

The ~1% tanking on Ozara – that’s one of the bosses along the way. The main tank died so for a few seconds I taunted to keep her from picking some random healer/DPS to attack. Then they were rezzed and took aggro back.

Finally, sometimes I DPS. πŸ˜‰ One thing I really like about ESO is you can perform all roles on the same character. That doesn’t stop me from having alts, but I do appreciate the flexibility. Even as I enjoy healing in groups, you can’t take that same healing build and do solo or overland content without being miserable.

At a recent Cloudrest trial I went to check on how I did:

Pillar of Nirn is the jewelry/weapon set I am using, from Falkreath Hold, Stormfist is the monster set I am using, from Tempest Island, and those two are contributing a fair amount of damage for essentially being passive effects (triggered by critical hits).

I’m basically a data geek and I just love looking through logs after we finish a trial. πŸ™‚ There’s always something interesting and I play all 3 roles so I can get some good info by looking at how others do, what skills and gear they have, etc.

ESO – Trials

Once again I have been slacking.

In previous years I participated in Blaugust, but I didn’t sign up this time around because my work and travel/vacation schedule for August would have made it tough to post more than a handful of times.

Anyway, I’ve started doing trials in ESO, and it’s been quite a lot of fun. Intimidating at first, but now after several dozen runs spread out over the various trials (except for Aetherian Archive and Asylum Sanctorium, I’ve been in all the trials at least once and some dozens of times).

It’s crazy that when I started up again with my friend, we were satisfied gearing up in normal dungeons. Now, we’ve obtained a few trials sets, have ventured into veteran dungeons, and that taste of power has us searching for more, haha!

Crafted and dungeon gear is still strong. The actual power boost from trial gear generally comes from the 3 piece bonus, which is typically Minor Slayer – adds 5% damage to dungeon, trial, arena monsters – for dps sets. For healing and tank sets, the bonus is (always?) Minor Aegis – reduce damage 5% from dungeon, trial, arena monsters. 5% isn’t huge but why pass up some free mitigation or damage?

Of course the 5 piece bonus can be very beneficial as well – e.g. the bonus for 5 pieces of Claw of Yolnakriin, a tank set, is buff group damage on taunt, which a tank should trigger non-stop.

Groups already have various strategies for each fight, so I just listen to the leader and do what they say. Sometimes, as above, it is hard to see anything due to all the monsters, players, and various effects going on.

I mostly play as a healer, although I have tanked a trial or two and dps’ed a few times as well. In ESO, a trial group is generally 2 tanks, 2 healers, 8 dps, with some leeway for certain situations (sometimes 1 tank, 9 dps).

ESO – Rockgrove

One of my friends noticed our guild was running a “Trial 101” for Rockgrove event, and planned to do it. I found the event page and also signed up, as dps.

The group was short a few players so the leader went to Craglorn to recruit more, and added one too many. Rather than boot out a random player, the leader asked if anybody would be willing to (off) tank.

I paused for a minute before typing a question out – how hard is it to tank Rockgrove normal for someone who has never been in it at all?

The response was – oh it’s easy, all you need is to be CP 160.

I didn’t quite believe that, but I didn’t want to see a random player booted; I’m CP 1400 and have tanking gear and a build so I said I’d do it. A quick trip to the Armory in my home and I was a tank.

We grouped up and entered…

Spoiler – I’ll rate myself a C at best. Fact is, tanking is difficult for me.

What went well – this really was a “trial 101”. The leader, who played one of the healers, explained every fight. He’d say “OK I want main tank to grab X, and off tank to grab Y and Z”.

If there were adds to keep watch for, he’d mention them, but only the serious/mini-boss type adds, not all the trash mobs.

He’d point out corner of the room to pull to, etc.

He’d also explain special mechanics, such as the one fight that involved spawning flesh atronachs and fire behemoths, I had to taunt them out of the crowd; the final boss who turns the floor to lava, everybody be ready to run; stuff like that.

Nobody did a pull before the tanks did, I gather that is the basic expectation of dps players in trials. The leader would tell us “tanks, on your pull” and I’d watch for the other tank to move before I did.

What didn’t go so well – my survivability. I had ~48K health (buffed with food), heavy armor, a decent rotation, but I’d still hit the dirt. Part of that is probably not blocking the correct mob attacks – if you block all the time you drain your stamina, so you want to block the lighter hits, dodge roll the “boss mechanic” hits you can’t survive, and try to weave in some heavy attacks to restore resources. Plus do your skill rotation which will ideally will provide some group buffs and mob debuffs.

So, not having been in before, I wasn’t sure of what AoE’s I could stand in, which hits I could take, and which of either required evasive moving.

Another thing that made it tough was half the fights were blind. Not just in the sense I hadn’t done them before, I mean in the more literal sense where I hadn’t seen the room or mobs at all. Many fights were on a platform up stairs from where we were staging, and I couldn’t see what mobs I was supposed to taunt until I ran up the stairs, turned the corner, and searched in a panic for the 2 I was supposed to control. To be fair, generally the taller the monster, the more dangerous! So much of the time I’d end up selecting the 2 tallest enemies out of a group of 6 or 8 and those would be the correct ones.

Speaking of selecting enemies, I play ESO using a controller and I think maybe a keyboard/mouse setup would be better as far as tanking. That is, if you can mouse select. As a Dragonknight your fundamental “yoink them to me” skill is the Unrelenting Grip morph of Fiery Grip, if you aren’t a DK you use the Silver Leash morph of Silver Bolts from the Fighter’s Guild. For ranged taunting, everybody uses the Inner Rage morph of Inner Fire from Undaunted. All these require a bit of aim which is hectic when the target is in a crowd that is generally all moving. (The easiest mobs to chain are ranged attackers since they generally stand still!)

For taunting up close and personal mobs, there is Pierce Armor morph of Puncture.

Lastly, I could undoubtedly work on positioning. Not just facing mobs away from DPS to avoid cleave damage – I mean where to stand to remain in position of the healers, yet out of the way for the other mobs the main tank is handling. I’ve healed a lot more than I’ve tanked and I don’t have a good feeling of how far away the range is on my skills. There is a Venn diagram overlap of where the healers can stand to see everybody without moving, and I don’t want to range too far. I’m sure once or twice I pull my group out of range of everyone else.

I had fun, and more importantly, so did my friend who has never raided in an MMO before. Got some good loot – all 4 sets that drop in Rockgrove are useful for some spec – so we both came away with a few pieces of each set.

We’re both up for more and I’ll keep an eye out for more Trial 101 situations. Although I’d rather DPs than tank, and heal than DPS. I’m sure than nearly any other tank would do better than me.

ESO – RPO attained

Well I feel a bit silly… I got my Ring of the Pale Order and realize I was farming in the wrong place. That’s why it was taking so long. I already had the lead that dropped from the dungeon.

In my defense, I was going off the list from UESP, which shows the leads in a certain order… alphabetical. However, that is not the order the game shows them.

I was missing lead #1 and #4, which made me think it was the Aurmine Ancestral Signet (from treasure chests in Bangkorai) and Order-Etched Gallery Rail (mobs in Bad Man Hallows).

I was actually missing Direnni Elegy Loop (delve boss in Coldrock Diggins) and Pale Order’s Golden Band (lore in Nighthollow Keep).


The reason I noticed this was due to another mythic I’ve almost completed – Thrassian Stranglers. I dug up an antiquity to get 4/5 needed, so I went to see where the 5th item was. That’s when I noticed the discrepancy, because I needed the Buoyant Steel (fishing in Stros M’kai; and I’ve only fished in Shadowfen for the New Life Festival, and Artaeum trying to get the Artaeum Takeaway Broth recipe – so I knew I didn’t have that antiquity) but that wasn’t the spot that was empty in the in-game list.

Anyway, ~30 minutes later, after picking up the Golden Band lead, and fighting the delve boss 3 times for the Elegy Loop lead, I had my Ring of the Pale Order.

Then, I went to a transmute station to make 2 copies (25 transmute crystals each!) for 2 alts.

Next up, I want the Ring of the Wild Hunt. Leads needed are Charm of the Shapeless (bosses in Murkmire) and Symbol of Y’ffre (world bosses in Greenshade).

I double checked to make sure those are the correct leads. πŸ˜‰

ESO – RNG Woes

You might think that I think ESO is perfect, from reading all my posts gushing about it. While I do think the game has many well-designed systems with great interplay between said systems, there is one design element I’m not a fan of… the random number generator (RNG).

OK, every game has this, I am specifically referring to how random it is getting leads for mythic items. These are powerful items that require getting (and digging up via the antiquities system) 5 or more leads that drop randomly. When I say random, I mean both low chance for the drop and spread out through all kinds of activities – killing world bosses, delve bosses, public dungeon bosses, opening chests, etc.

One in particular is the Ring of the Pale Order (RPO). This is an unusual item that appeals to both casual players, and hardcore players. Wow, how can that be?

It’s basic property is: return a percentage of your damage as healing… with the drawback that nobody else can heal you.

So for a casual player, who is probably solo most the time, this is fantastic. That extra bit of healing makes it easier to do the content. Especially if you are a class with a spammable damage/healing ability… say a Templar using the Puncturing Sweeps morph of Puncturing Strikes. You already get 40% of your damage as healing, throw on another 20 from RPO?!

And over on the hardcore side, maybe you’re chasing one of the speed achievements. Even though the healing is less in a group (4% less per ally), any bonus at all might allow you to do without a dedicated healer and go all-out damage – everyone self-heals, uses potions, the RPO, some combo of all of the above, etc.

So this item is very desirable and the leads are heavily farmed. And one of those leads drops off any monster inside the Bad Man’s Hollows public dungeon.

Since that is a public dungeon, it isn’t instanced for you. Depending on when you go, it will be empty or jam packed. The dungeon is a small, base-game public dungeon so all the monsters are pretty easy and you might get dizzy running loops.

And in a mind boggling design decision, there is another desirable mythic lead in the same public dungeon! It’s a lead for the Ring of the Wild Hunt, a mythic that makes you faster: 15% in combat, and 45% faster out of combat.

As you can imagine, this is also extremely desirable. Let’s be honest and admit that a huge amount of time in an MMO is spent traveling from one place to another. Getting a speed boost is something everyone benefits from.

So Bad Man’s Hollows is generally farmed with a steady stream of players all hoping for various leads. Me included.

Well, not for a bit, I burned out trying to get either lead. I estimate I’ve spent ~15 hours across several days without getting either lead. And I’m taking a lengthy break from doing it just because it isn’t all that fun killing the same mobs in the same small dungeon over and over.

Trying to collect armor sets from a dungeon comes down to RNG, but that is actually fun to do. And a recent patch introduced curated drops, where you get items you don’t already have. (Well that’s the goal but I’ve seen different behavior. Nevertheless, the curated drops do help).

It makes me think how other games have a token system, for example FF14 and Allagan Tomestone of Poetics. Do content, get a few tomestones, eventually you can buy what you want. Win Win!!

I know that Zenimax is in a tough spot. The players really want these items, if they made a predictable way to get them, everyone would have them. MMO players are all about optimizing the path to a result.

The random drop system is probably necessary but ugh it feels terrible.

ESO – High Isle Reveal

I realized I’m hooked on this game when I juggled around my work schedule so I could go home and watch the reveal earlier today. I also prepared last night by linking my twitch account (which somehow I have via Amazon Prime) and my ESO account.

I was lured in by the crab pet and stayed for the info.

Me and my new (non-combat) Barnacle-Back Coral Crab pet. I’m on the left.

We’re off to the High Isles, a small archipelago of four islands, steeped in Breton lore and history. The story looks political – tension between royal houses.

This sounds excellent, my favorite zone story so far is Wrothgar, all about royal ascension and who is fighting for the throne. There’s only so many “end of the world doom bringers” you can defeat before putting up a sign and telling the next one that comes along to reconsider their plans.

More new stuff includes a zone event – volcanic vents. They will be similar to Abyssal Geysers from Summerset.

Also an in-game collectible card game. They promise a mechanic to ensure new players won’t be at a disadvantage to someone who has unlocked everything – players select cards to use, and the combination is shuffled and dealt.

Two new companions – Ember (“with flexible morals”) and Isobel, who is more of a knight and wants to “do right by players”. Interesting… Ember might be a criminal companion, who might help out with Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood work. Or at least look the other way.

The stream then showed off an upcoming dungeon, a mix of flooded ruins and seashore, with coral enemies and overall great looking graphics.

The post reveal stream revealed a new assistant – Giladil the Ragpicker, a deconstruction assistant. This is so huge, can get rid of stuff out in the world rather than returning to a crafting area!!

There was more of course, new armor sets, new monster sets, new underwater house, etc. I’m looking forward to this! Releases June 6th and ~2 weeks later for consoles.