Elder Scrolls Online: Deep-diving Morrowind’s PvP battlegrounds

At last week’s Elder Scrolls Online press event, I sat down in the ESO Live studio to talk to the PvP designer in person: Lead Designer Brian Wheeler, whose high enthusiasm for PvP in the upcoming expansion Morrowind is nearly absurd. Sheogorath-absurd.

Now, I would not consider myself an elite PvPer, but I am a fan of good PvP design, one that incorporates a good class meta, interesting maps, and meaningful leaderboards so that PvPers can prove to their friends how good they actually were. I was sitting on the edge of my seat as Wheeler and I discussed the ins and outs of this new game-mode for Elder Scrolls Online. Let’s dig in!

What are ESO battlegrounds?

If you have PvPed in just about any modern MMO, then you probably already know what battlegrounds are. They are small instances where teams of players are pitted against each other to achieve a specific objective. Although Wheeler mentioned that the devs are working on several other game modes, Morrowind will launch with team deathmatch, capture the flag, and point defense. Wheeler said that these are all just games “you played in the schoolyard,” so they should seem very familiar to you.

Wheeler described the maps of battlegrounds as being “smaller than a district” in the Imperial City, and that the idea is that it will take less than a couple of seconds for players to run into each other if they all immediately head to the middle. To start, battlegrounds will have three maps, each supporting all three game types. The first map he mentioned is set in an Ashland quarry that is very open with a handful of line-of-sight breakers. The second one is based on Dwemer ruins with tight corridors and a second level. The third map is a bit of a mix of the two; it’s more open than the Dwemer map, but there is a platform in the middle that is only accessible from teleportation pads.

Critical to note here is that these battlegrounds aren’t your typical two teams of 4-16 players. Just as in Cyrodiil and the Imperial City, there are three teams, but the team size is only four players, and thanks to systems like One Tamriel, there is no faction split. For example, a Daggerfall Covenant character can be teamed with an Aldemeri Dominion character and two Ebonheart Pact characters. The development team decided to go light on the narrative this time around and focus more on gameplay and mechanics, so don’t look for a heavy story-bound reason to be battling each other in groups like this.

Manic, quick battles

It’s a political match every match.
Wheeler describes battlegrounds as fitting a niche that Cyrodiil and the Imperial City don’t fit yet. These are meant to be 15-minutes-or-less battles where you are in and out quickly and there is less risk. Cyrodiil is a warzone, he reminded me, and the Imperial City is high-risk. Battlegrounds can be queued up from anywhere in the world once a player hits level 10, and they take only a few minutes to be ready. “[Battlegrounds] will help with those who are scared to go into Cyrodiil as well as the casual player who only has 15 minutes on lunch,” he believes.

However, the most interesting dynamic has to be the three teams. Unlike most instanced PvP, ESO‘s battlegrounds create a situation where you constantly have to look over your shoulder. “The joy of three teams — this is going to sound terrible but — it’s a political match every match,” Wheeler says. “With two sides, if we’re losing then there is no coming back from it. But if we’re losing on a three-sided match, one we can either aid the guys who are in number two or hinder the guys that are in number two. We can aid the guys who are in number one or hinder the guys who are in number one.” Later, he told me, “If you get the red eyes (meaning you bead in on somebody), then you might lose because that’s not how you win the game when you have three teams.”

Leaderboards and other must-haves

This is the first time that Elder Scrolls Online has stepped into the instanced PvP arena (pun intended). Are these battlegrounds going to have the things that PvPers and killer-types are looking for? According to Wheeler, they will. Leaderboards will be set up so that you can compare your ranking with other players based on the game type. Even though there will be different brackets, players will compete with all brackets on the leaderboards. The current plan is to have a 10-to-49 bracket, a level 50 with no CP bracket, and a CP bracket. However, everyone who plays capture the flag will be placed on the leaderboard with everyone else playing capture the flag, regardless of level.

Because of the way the leaderboards are divided, I asked whether players will be able to queue for specific games. Wheeler said that is the ultimate plan, but currently, because there are so few game types, Morrowind will not launch with that functionality. He did explain that eventually game types will be broken up into buckets and that players will be able to choose which bucket to play in. For instance, games like capture the flag and murder ball will have the same kinds of medals awarded and similar rankings on the leaderboards so players will eventually be able to queue for those types of games together. (Note: Murder ball is not going to launch with Morrowind.)

I also brought up the concerns of mods and add-ons. He said that the team will keep a close eye on mods and add-ons as it has for the current PvP zones, but so far the devs do not see any that would give players an unfair advantage in battlegrounds over other players.

Personally, I don’t know how much battlegrounding I will do, but I am glad to see this level of thought dropped on repeatable content, and it gives me hope for future content.

Disclosure: In accordance with Massively OP’s ethics policy, we must disclose that ZeniMax paid for our writer’s flight to and hotel at this press event. They also fed him a Panera Bread ham and cheese sandwich. Yum. Neither ZeniMax nor Bethesda has requested nor been granted any control or influence over our coverage of the event, and the writer is paid exclusively by Massively OP for his work.

Get caught up on all of our pieces from the Morrowind press event!

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

LEAVE A COMMENT

21 Comments on "Elder Scrolls Online: Deep-diving Morrowind’s PvP battlegrounds"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Reader
Rottenrotny

I enjoy Cyrodil to some extent.
There’s such a HUGE difference in character power between someone who has played forever and has all the right gear and skills and another player who just plays what seemed fun at the time and didn’t read deltiasgaming.com
My DK seems to suck ass 1v1 and, well… in general, so I like to lump myself into a big crowd then use hit and run tactics.

Reader
MKlwr

My favourite is siege defense. It’s not as glamorous as 1vX, but it involves strategy.
What I found is that once you’ve been in Cyrodiil a while, you develop the right reflexes to react to things more easily. The first few weeks, if I got attacked, I just died. Then I started taking longer to die. Then I started not dying. And finally I managed to kill people who attacked me sometimes too.

Reader
Rottenrotny

I like both siege and defense. Really I think Cyrodil is pretty great I just wish I could hold my own better.
I used to be -ok- back closer to launch but then I didn’t play for a while.
When I first logged back on after so long I ran out of Daggerfall and got killed by 2 wolves. Yup, that bad.

Reader
jay

As someone who hates bg’s, and loves the AvA (RvR) system ESO has had for ever, I’m sad to see this addition. I know AvA will still exist etc, but this will inevitably draw people away from AvA. When you only have so many players to pull from, and you dilute that pool even further, crap happens.

Reader
Threevo V

thank god… the sooner i can get out of that trash large scale zerg fest nonsense, the better..

Give me a format that actually gives me the opprotunity outplay individual players on a consistent basis without having to hope and pray a scenario like that occurs in cyrodil.

No one is taking away your player vs wall 30v30 nonsense.

Reader
Chris Walker

Really looking forward to trying out these new BGs. Love the 3-team approach, following the Cyrodiil and DAoC paradigm.

As a Cyrodiil devotee, I am concerned about losing people to the BGs, so we’ll see how it unfolds.

Reader
Arktouros

I have immense respect for Brian Wheeler (which is saying something as someone who usually has disdain for my most developers) but this is going to be another miss for them. The people this will cater to will just end up being frustrated by limitations such as not having an ELO style ranking system to keep you around similarly successful players meaning super extreme PK veteran is teamed up with Joe “I choose my skills cause they’re sparkly!” Blow leading to nothing but frustration during matches. Even games like GW2 that does focus (absurdly so) on eSports and matchmaking have a tough time trying to get it right each season with tweaks.

Reader
Dug From The Earth

I still think Zeni is strongly against BGs in their game.

However, since they couldnt figure out how to get their large scale PvP (cryodiil) to perform better than 20 FPS for most, I think their solution was to shrink down the size of the battles. IE: Battlegrounds.

Ill enjoy them for sure, because I like pvp. Im just sad that large scale pvp in Cyrodiil isnt likely to ever get better than it is currently, without a complete engine revamp. (of which, would greatly benefit players in large cities, and trials as well)

Reader
Chris Walker

I went back to ESO a couple months ago, and after level 10 I have spent my entire time in Cyrodiil (I’m level 50 now and 143 CP level). I have not experienced any lag, even once. It’s been an absolute blast.

Valkyriez_Gaming
Reader
Valkyriez_Gaming

Same. A lot of the time it sounds like fps issues getting confused with lag when it’s really peoples GPU’S and rigs struggling with the on screen performance.

Battlegrounds is good for the game, it should spread the PvP population out a bit and so Cyrodil will actually take less of a hammering resulting in better performance for everyone.

Reader
Threevo V

sorry but no, pre 50 cyrodil is very stable, non cp campaigns are for the most part fairly stable. But go into a regular cp 30 day campaign and you will understand.

No one is confused the fps lag 5 minute loading screens, buildings and players that are invisible, and waiting 2 to 3 seconds for the client / server to register your ability inputs.

Reader
Arktouros

I still think what happened was after the first year or so after their launch things were super, super bad so they cut where they could and Cyrodill servers took the brunt of it. Cause at release we had waaaaaaay more people out there with no issues server side or client side. Add in CP calculations later and it’s a recipe for the disaster the game currently is in Cyrodill most nights.

Reader
wratts

I wondered about that, because I tried a fair amount of Cyrodill at launch and never really had client problems beyond needing to tune down graphics in a crowd, and the server performance wasn’t great but wasn’t a distraction either. To hear people talk about it now, it sounds like a complete waste of time. Makes sense that the “micro improvment” CP system would have had a serious impact on the servers

Reader
Arktouros

It’s not “complete waste of time” status but rather “extremely frustrating at times” status.

Next week they’re testing the impact on CP by removing CP in Cyrodill for all campaigns.

Reader
Chris Walker

“To hear people talk about it now, it sounds like a complete waste of time.”

Not sure what you’re hearing or from whom, but from someone who plays ESO quite a bit, Cyrodiil is far from a waste of time. It’s great fun. I’ve pretty much forgotten about the rest of the game as I can’t drag myself away from its battles and sieges.

Reader
wratts

Three ESO articles in a morning? Not complaining, but surprised Bree didn’t want to spread them out a bit

Reader
Dug From The Earth

Problem with that is that the news is out TODAY. Waiting to spread them out would draw in the crowd of posters who would fill the comments with things like “Old news!!”

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

Pretty much, yup. When everyone else is going to dump them all at once, we’re forced to do the same.

wpDiscuz