ESO Collision Detection: Why or Why Not?

December 4th, 2013 Posted by Opinion 11 comments

I don’t profess being a forum hound dog. I don’t spend hours of my day sifting through posts about this or that game topic so I can join in the argument. I have never really found the time to entwine myself in a forum community in order to become one of its more active members with a post count in the tens of thousands. I typically just look in on a couple of forums from time to time to get an idea of any current trends in topics or discussions on games I am  following. That is the extent to which I troll.

That said, I recently came across a forums discussion on Bethsoft’s website about collision detection in Elder Scrolls Online that caught my attention. The thread started as a poll of sorts, asking for voters to choose whether they would or would not want collision detection in the game. The thread naturally devolved into a “heated” discussion on the matter that went on for several pages, leading nowhere as they often do. Despite this argument being akin to beating an already dead horse back to life at this point, I thought I might present some of the more noteworthy, well-thought-out ideas expressed in that forum’s thread.

30947 1 1359917961 600x337 ESO Collision Detection: Why or Why Not?

One of the first thoughts expressed was, “Skyrim had collision detection, why can’t ESO?” The answer to this question is simple really. Skyrim only had one player to keep track of as opposed to thousands of players in an online environment. Not to mention that even with Skyrim there were exceptions to the collision rule. Ever notice that some tree branches and bushes could be walked though despite their rather hardy, impeding appearance? Very few single player games have full and complete collision detection for absolutely every object a player might come in contact with. Though Skyrim and the other Elder Scrolls games did a great job of providing players with an immersive, interactive world to explore, there simply are not enough hours in a day to program collision for absolutely everything.

Most of the main focus on this debate for collision detection stemmed from the sentiment that some players don’t like the feeling like they are fighting a ghost because they can move through an enemy while fighting. My personal thought on this is that players can always choose not to move through another character model intentionally in order to simulate collision if it really matters to them that much or for role play value. I know that I personally find myself stopping short of “bumping” into another character model by nature and therefore have never really noticed if there was any form of collision detection at work or not. It’s all in the psychology of how you play I guess.

Another layer to the discussion was leveled with, “Age of Conan and even EVE Online have collision detection that works.” I can certainly appreciate the idea behind this argument since both of these games are online games like ESO will be, but the developers for those games chose to add collision detection to their games for their own reasons. In addition to that, the games in question here are different in style and concept from ESO, especially EVE Online. From my limited exposure to EVE, it seemed to me that collision detection was designed to add to the reality of the game meant to keep players aware of their surroundings when flying through the vastness of space else they should destroy their rather expensive ships in an accident. As EVE Online is based in a fully realized 3D space (literally) where players can not only move horizontally, but vertically too, I feel it serves as a poor example by which to compare ESO. Besides that, EVE Online’s battles are at long range for the most part and it would likely be hard to impact another ship intentionally, be it an NPC or player. ESO on the other hand is ground based and collision detection becomes a whole other ball of wax to deal with.

EVE Online Retribution fleet action 600x237 ESO Collision Detection: Why or Why Not?

One particular concern on this subject involves PvP. Admittedly to my limited knowledge; Age of Conan’s PvP did not play any major role within the game itself, unlike the intention for ESO. PvP battles in ESO are going to be a major element of the game, so this could, and most likely will, lead to exploitation of sorts. Players may constantly find themselves on the receiving end of repeated “strategic griefing” that could lead to complaints and subscriptions lost due to unfair PvP balance issues. Rage quit much, you ask? Yes, I have quit playing games in the past due to balance issues and I’m certain I’m not alone there.

However, collision detection in PvE could be a different story. It could greatly add to the “realism” of a combat situation if enemy mobs strategically backed a player into a corner or other tight spot that made escape impossible and death a certainty or vice versa. But, unfortunately you can’t have collision detection in one part of a game and not in another because collision detection is at the heart of the game engine. It is an all or nothing prospect.

CollisionCode 600x234 ESO Collision Detection: Why or Why Not?

Though I am certainly not a game developer or programmer, my understanding of collision detection as I have learned of it so far leads to this final thought; at this point in the development cycle, it could most likely delay the game by up to another year or so if Zenimax chose to add it in. It would require tearing down all the base code of the engine, writing in the collision detection code, then testing and re-writing again and again to stabilize the engine once more. Basically going all the way back to the alpha phase which would mean a delayed release, potential lost interest in the game and heaps upon heaps of additional money spent in development that isn’t being recouped by sales which could then lead to funding being dropped and the game never being realized. I for one would rather not wait that much longer for the game as I am eagerly awaiting its release.

Some food for thought before I go. A good friend of mine once told me that life is like a series of battles. You have to pick your battles carefully because some are more important than others. Though I do not really have a strong opinion one way or the other on the subject of collision detection, it seems to me this would be one of those “little” battles he was talking about. A high quality Elder Scrolls game that feels like an Elder Scrolls game that I can also enjoy with others online seems like a better cause to fight for on the whole and collision detection is just a small part of that.

If you wish to learn more about the complexities of collision detection, here is an excellent article written by a game developer back in 2000 detailing all the background math and consideration that goes into creating realistic collision detection:

And another article on the subject of collision detection from a developer’s point of view written more recently, in April of this year, can also be found here:


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Jack says:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think what you were trying to say there is that you would have liked PvE collision, but understand if it’s too late to do?
That’s my take on it least. I can say with certainty that I would have been loads happier if there WAS collision detection with PvE.

Zach Dillard says:

Jack have you had much experience with high scale mmos? You think collision detection is a good idea for a game like this till you are stuck in a doorway or small space because players are crowding there….. Also have you ever played WoW? Some players find it funny to get on their very large mounts to cover thing like quest npcs or mail boxes making it hard to even be able to click the mb. Another example I have is on the release of wows newest expansion mists of pandaria the first quest you get is to report to a certain npc. I remember standing at that npc for about five min trying to find him so I could click on him to talk. Now imagine the frustrations of that times 100 where you can even get to an npc day one because 75 other players crowd around trying to just get close enough to click the Nov but you can’t because you can’t “clip” through the other players because there is collision detection. While on my single player games I very much enjoy the realism that collision detection can bring I just can’t imagine the frustrations of have to bob and we’ve through 100s of other players in an mmo

immanuel ericson says:

Are you suggesting that ESO is a point and click game? As far as i know it should not be the case atleast.

I can understand that griefing is something that discourage a lot of people and that’s basically the point for the griefer.

Have you played TERA online? In that game, action mmo somewhere inbetween wow and eso, there is colission, how can this work? Simple you don’t have colission in safe zones and you know what?

In ESO the only place you can PvP at is Cyrodiil and i doubt that players would intentionally ruin for themselves by griefing fellow alliance members in the campaigns and if you’re being griefed by the enemy (whatever that could be) then isn’t it a good thing?

Besides how would you feel if you are defending a fort and stand in the way of the attackers in some narrow space or lined up with some friends and the attackers would simly not care because they can run straight through you and just focus on the objective, what would be the point of having sturdy characters when it’s only going to be about DPS and crowd control effects?

It could also be some kind of no collision to friendlies(ish), would probably be abused by what would appear to be one person be a swarm of players running inside of each other, but you should be getting my point at this time.

Although I do agree that the game have already been delayed more than enough collision is a big thing and it should be valued even more highly in PvP than PvE (imo) Sure if everybody pretended like they couldn’t run through each other that would solve it without question but WHY would you NOT run through enemies for your objective(s) (whatever it is) if you can?

TL:DR Collision is important for giving presence in PvP and PvE while being meaningless in safe zones. It can be made so that it changes accordingly, it has been done and it can be done, hard or not.

Clab says:

What ericson said. Collision detection isn’t an all or nothing thing contrary to what the writer of the article implies. It can be turned on and off for certain areas of the game. Case and point with Tera.

Also PvP from what I’ve seen played a huge role in Age of Conan. The only way to get access to the end game dungeon area or something was to control the majority of the territory in PvP. Everything I’ve read about age of conan was that it was PvP focused and had some of the greatest PvP ever. So if age of conan was a medieval/fantasy game with a focus on pvp and everyone hails it as one of the greatest PvP MMOs of all time…..why is collision detection not in at least cyrodill?

Chilton says:

You read wrong. PvP had nothing to do with content. It had some fun open world pvp, but that’s it. It’s mostly minigames (battlegrounds / warzones) these days. They have keep sieges that nearly no one participates in.

I am not sure what you mean by territory control, as the only thing you can control in AoC are the keeps, and you can only own one.

Chilton says:

Collision detection belongs in games, it just makes sense. There are so many ways around abusing it. In EQ1 ogres would stand in doorways and block them off from people. However games like AoC made it so if you crouch you walk through people.

Collision can play a part in tactics for pvp as well, blocking off escapes and such. You wont see people crouching through people in PvP because you move too slow and it takes a GCD to crouch. AoC did a lot of things right for all the things it did wrong.

wondra says:

They simply couldnt make it, 200 players is least guaranteed to display-only. Now image adding some collision or more advanced calulations. They did want to scale PvP down and since its also console game they couldnt implement it and wait for HW to advance enought to run full 200 players.

Boreal says:

OMG NO COLLISION Detection in PVP -.- Me and my Friends hyped this Game so hard but now we know that we will never buy it. Thats such a big Point. Thats makes an impressive bad PvP without it…..

adsadsads says:

Brothers ! Anarchy Online has COLLISION ! and it’s a 12 years old game. No collision – fail RVR. Will buy the game, play the free month, and close the account.

JezeT says:

These are all just excuses, because even Warhammer Online had collision detection and yes there was hundreds of players in a single spot ex. when opposing realm was attacking other’s keep.

Collision detection adds more depth to PvP, when you can for example defence more effectively with tankwalls blocking a staircase or doorway.

Brohogany says:

I’m glad someone finally brought up Warhammer online. It did collision detection perfectly with a system where all hostile npcs/players could block you while any passive or friendly player could be phased through. Heavily armored characters could really take advantage of “shield walls” in pvp.

That being said though, it’s too late to be implemented sadly.

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