The Elder Scrolls series has wowed gamers the world over with its mix of epic fantasy lore, first-person action and open-world exploration.
Most recently, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released in 2011 and received massive acclaim, including several Game of the Year awards.
The idea of using the world of Tamriel created in the Elder Scrolls games to create a MMO (massively multiplayer online game) like World of Warcraft has caused much excitement since it was announced last year.
Yesterday, the beta testing period opened for registration, allowing interested gamers to sign up for a chance to try The Elder Scrolls Online early.
I spoke to Matt Firor, game director at developer Zenimax Online Studios, to find out more about what players have to look forward to.
Why did you decide to set The Elder Scrolls Online 1000 years before Skyrim?
All of the five major Elder Scrolls games have been set relatively close to one another – so we thought it would be interesting to explore a time in Tamriel’s history that is not well documented. Mid-Second Era is a time that includes all of the provinces and races that are well known to Elder Scrolls players, but in a time of upheaval and confusion. This gives players a familiar world to live in, but one that has its own stories and adventures.
A lot of people who have played Elder Scrolls games might not have played MMOs and will be naturally suited to solo play more than team play. What steps have been taken to ensure teamwork is encouraged and rewarded?
We fully realise that two groups of players are going to want to check out Elder Scrolls Online (ESO): console players who are used to the single-player Elder Scrolls games and MMO players. We’ve designed the game around being comfortable and rewarding for both groups. For Elder Scrolls players, we have the same mouse-driven combat that was used in PC versions of Skyrim and Oblivion.
Zenimax Online Studios Game Director Matt Firor
Every character can wear any armour and use any weapon, and can optimise themselves in many different ways. Also, of course, most of the game is fully playable solo, but if you do run across another player, helping is encouraged by the fact that all players involved in defeating an NPC will be fully rewarded. There’s no downside to helping someone out – both of you will win, and hopefully both will see that it is very fun to adventure through Tamriel with friends.
Elder Scrolls games thus far have had great systems for smithing, alchemy, enchanting and so on and this part of the game provides enormous satisfaction to some players. How robust are these systems in Elder Scrolls Online compared to Skyrim?
We have an awesome crafting system in the world that will be very familiar to players of Skyrim. We’ll talk more about it in the coming months.
You can choose from three factions in the game that are at war with each other. Does this mean you'll be forced to fight a player from an enemy faction if you just stumble across them while exploring?
The levelling portion of the game is segregated by Alliance, so you won’t be running into enemies while adventuring. They’ll be in their Alliance home zones and you’ll be in yours. When you do go PvP, you travel to Cyrodiil, the province in the middle of Tamriel where the Alliance War is taking place.
The 'Introduction to Elder Scrolls Online' video (embedded above) has a massive PvP siege battle which looks like hundreds or even thousands of soldiers facing off against each other. Is a battle of this magnitude actually possible in the game, made up of human players?
Every one of the figures in that video was a human player. We got all of our devs into the game for a PvP test, and then captured that sequence with them. It was all in-game. Cyrodiil (the PvP map) is open-world and supports up to 2000 players in it at the same time. ESO’s client is designed to be able to handle (on the recommended spec) 200 players on screen at the same time. That particular scene had about 115 players on each side.
New Zealand is on the bottom of the world and we can have lag issues when playing online games. Do you think the 'Megaserver' system will be problematic or helpful for us?
We’re looking into solutions for players in New Zealand and Australia. Megaserver won’t help or hinder you, it’s the physical proximity to the server – and resultant network latency – that is most important.
What happens after you hit level 50 and have mastered your character as much as possible in the skill areas you want to?
ESO features so many player skills (weapon, armour, abilities, perks) that you’ll be levelling them long after you hit the level 50 ‘cap’. You can swap weapons and start learning new abilities with them at any time, even at level 50.
The game's storyline has the Daedric Prince Molag Bal endangering Tamriel. Does this storyline come to a conclusion that is comparable to previous Elder Scrolls games? What happens after that storyline has concluded?
For that, you will have to play the game. No spoilers here!
Were any changes made to the game based on feedback after it was unveiled last year?
ESO was very much in development when we announced it last year, so we’ve made many changes since then. We have been playing the game internally for a long time now, and we reacted to feedback from those tests as well as from people who have been lucky enough to have been included in our focus tests.
It became such a beloved meme... so will there be a nod to the Skyrim "arrow to the knee" line in there?
We very much look forward to having players create new memes in ESO, but you may, if you look hard enough, find some references to your favourite moments from the other Elder Scrolls games.
The Elder Scrolls Online is scheduled for a release on PC later in the year with registration for the beta testing period can be completed at ElderScrollsOnline.com.