The Elder Scrolls Online released its first expansion, Morrowind, shortly before E3 2017. MMOs rarely come up with mainstream media, but with Morrowind’s nostalgia power, I heard the name mentioned a few times off the showroom floor. While I’d heard of Morrowind, of course, I didn’t personally get on the Elder Scrolls train until Skyrim — it’s been one of those games making “best of” lists for as long as I could remember. However, some of the things I’d read about the upcoming expansion gave me pause, so I brought them up with ZeniMax Game Director Matt Firor during our conversation at E3.
Specifically, he means the megaserver structure of MMORPGs that allow thousands of players to more or less game together. “We have an interesting server structure in ESO that is unique in this generation of online game. What we do is we have what we call megaservers, where we instance all of our zones,” he explains. “Once you’re on the North American server, you never pick another server. The game kinda figures out how many instances of each zone to spin up, and which one to put you in….those are the kind of cool things that are happening behind the scenes, in game development, where it takes all of the decision-making out of the player’s hands.”
Someone could probably contest the “unique” part, given how many MMORPGs have employed versions of layered instancing and megaservers over the years, including modern ones, but I wouldn’t argue at all with “cool” — it still seems bizarre to me that any MMORPGs in 2017 are still stranding gamers on smaller servers, to the detriment of the game itself. So: What MMORPG needs megaserver tech the most but still doesn’t have it?
Ahead of E3, ZeniMax’s Matt Firor sat down with Gamasutra for a streamed interview on The Elder Scrolls Online, focused chiefly on Morrowind. It’s a bit of an odd interview, as the publication kicks things off by characterizing the game as a F2P title and suggesting that the MMORPG genre hasn’t seen a paid expansion in a long time, which may surprise those of you playing SWTOR, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, or Final Fantasy XIV. But Firor weathers the question, explaining that Morrowind is intended as a jump-in point for players who’ve never jumped in before, and yet it’s accessible for vets too.
“In the old days, what we did is we brought out an expansion, and the only people that bought it were experienced players because you had to be X level in order to buy it an enjoy it,” Firor explains. “That’s the difference between Morrowind and those days. Anyone can just jump in and have fun.”
He also touches on the differences between the era of Dark Age of Camelot and Elder Scrolls Online (hint: It’s about grind). It’s a long stream but worth it for Firor’s commentary.
When it comes to text-based MMOs created in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, the sheer number of them would blot out the sky. There are certainly more multi-user dungeons (MUDs) than I’ve ever been able to get a handle on when I’ve tried creating lists of the most important to know, but I will say that there are a few that seem to pop up more than others. The original MUD1, created by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, was certainly a watershed moment for online roleplaying games. Learning about DikuMUD is pretty essential, considering its impact on graphical MMORPGs that we still play today.
But there’s another title that often goes unnoticed, unless you keep an eye out for it. It’s a MUD that keeps popping up when you look into the history of the MMORPG genre, one with ties to key players and design concepts that are still active today.
It’s the MUD that shaped the MMO industry, and it was called Sceptre of Goth.
Grumpy about The Elder Scrolls Online being down most of today? That’s probably because you’re in the EU — the extra-long outage kept the servers just out of reach.
“Once in a while we have to do some extended work to our datacenter, and sometimes it takes longer than it should due to unintended consequences,” Matt Firor wrote via Bethsoft’s Gina Bruno this afternoon. “Today’s downtime was required to upgrade parts of the datacenter in preparation for Morrowind’s launch. It took longer than we thought because we ran into a couple issues relating to network security that was preventing different parts of the network from talking to each other. It’s never fun for anyone when we have extended downtime like this, but it’s always for a good reason. We try to schedule downtime at the least populated time for the game (remembering that ESO is worldwide and downtime will always inconvenience some players, no matter when it happens). We always strive to get everything back up and running quickly and do everything we can to keep maintenance windows as short as possible.”
The explanation hasn’t stopped EU players from pointing out that because EU maintenance is done on ZeniMax’s NA schedule, even a regular-length downtime can creep into prime-time for some EU players.
Along with a new expansive 30-hour long story, Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind will introduce us to the game’s first new class called the Warden, a class I previewed at last week’s press event at ZeniMax HQ. And although it is called a “class” because that’s the term that gamers understand, Game Director Matt Firor likes to call it a “theme,” and the theme of the Warden is nature.
By now, I hope you’ve seen the Blur Studio trailer for the Morrowind chapter. The Redguard with the giant bear in that trailer represents the Warden. He shows off many of the abilities that are specific to the Warden, including the bear pet. But of course, there’s much more to the class than a fuzzy friend, so when I spoke to Game Director Matt Firor and Creative Director Richard Lambert in person, I asked them all about our new class and the role it plays in the expansion.
Last week, I trekked out to Baltimore to visit ZeniMax Online Studios and get a first glimpse at Elder Scrolls Online’s upcoming chapter/expansion, Morrowind. After all, it’s been fifteen years since anyone explored the island of Vvardenfell; it would have been extraordinarily dumb of me to turn down the offer. The press event also afforded me the opportunity to speak personally to the ESO developers, including Game Director Matt Firor and Creative Director Richard Lambert, so believe me, I took advantage of every opportunity that I had to get our readers questions and concerns addressed.
During my visit, Lambert and Firor gave a presentation about Morrowind story, the new Warden class, and battlegrounds. Later this morning, I’ll have articles about the Warden and battlegrounds, but in this piece, we’re tackling the Morrowind story and what’s happening on Vvardenfell some 700 years before The Elder Scrolls III.
Firor says that Elder Scrolls Online currently counts 8.5 million players across all platforms. This number reflects unique players, not concurrent subscribers (the game is buy-to-play with an optional sub). It does not count beta players or free weekend players, just people who’ve purchased the game outright, so it might more properly be termed “boxes sold.”
Massively OP’s ESO columnist, Larry Everett, was on hand at the event to clarify that the number is an update to the 7M number released last year.
Speak quickly, Outlander, or go away!
Fancy a trip back to nostalgia town? Elder Scrolls Online Redditors have datamined what appears to be a map of Vvardenfell, the massive volcanic island at the heart of Morrowind and the location of the fan-favorite 2002 TES III: Morrowind RPG. It’s no stretch to assume that Vvardenfell DLC is on the way.
It’s a little bit odd that buildings and boats would be in exactly the same place an age later, but if it’s legit, it’s time to get excited, especially in context with Matt Firor’s hints about something “amazing” coming in 2017 beyond housing.
ZeniMax’s Matt Firor has penned an address to Elder Scrolls Online players to cap off the year. While most of it’s a recap of 2016 — multiple DLC, One Tamriel, and the 7 million player announcement at the top — he does offer some hints about the new year, promising that in 2017, “it’s only going to get better.”
“We’ll talk more about our 2017 plans early next year, but most of you already know about Homestead which introduces player housing. This will be launching in February, and you can expect to see it on the PTS very early in the new year. After that? Well, you’re going to have to wait a bit, but trust me, the wait will be worth it. We’ll talk a lot more about the amazing new things that are coming to ESO as early as we can in the new year. We had a huge year in 2016, and I fully expect 2017 to be an even more successful year for ESO and will set us up for many more years of growth and success.”
Elder Scrolls Online has already taken home one of our awards this year — for Most Improved. Much deserved too. Stay tuned for tonight, when Massively OP’s MJ takes a tour of ESO’s holiday festivities live on Twitch!
For many of us at Massively OP, Elder Scrolls Online won E3, if that’s really a thing, but that’s partly because all ZeniMax Online Studios really had to do was show up when most other MMORPGs barely made a showing at all. Even so, ESO did much more than just show up; in fact, it made it to the main stage during the Bethesda conference presentation.
Just like many other conference presentations, ESO’s time on stage was limited and left fans with more questions than answers, only exacerbated by the arrival of 2.5.0 on the PTS this morning, patch notes for which already have players speculating about the precise nature of open-world vs. instanced housing in the game.
So we’ve chatted up Game Director Matt Firor about the next update, the changes to Cyrodiil PvP, One Tamriel, and of course, player housing. Read on!
The Elder Scrolls Online expands again today, this time with a launch in Japan. Game Director Matt Firor writes that ZeniMax and DMM have fully localized the game for the new region over the course of the last year.
Because of the way the game’s megaservers are set up, existing players in North America will definitely be bumping into the new Japanese players. As Firor explains,
“You will see our new Japanese players on the North American PC/Mac megaserver starting today. You may notice them conversing in Japanese as they explore Tamriel alongside you. The game supports Japanese-language chat options, too, much like those that are already in use for French and German on the European servers. Please help us make our new heroes feel welcome by showing them courtesy and hospitality. Say hello in Japanese (Kon’nichiwa! or こんにちは！), and maybe even extend them an invitation to your groups and guilds!”
In this age of rampant region-locking, we can only salute this move!
Elder Scrolls Online players eager to move into their own dwellings will need to wait a bit longer to do so — but the good news is that it’s going to happen for sure.
Game Director Matt Firor said that housing will be part of a sweeping series of updates planned for Elder Scrolls Online. The plan is for the implementation of several smaller DLC packs over the next year, which Firor is informally labeling as “episodes.”
Next on ESO’s agenda is the Argonian Dungeon Pack, which will arrive this August and contain a barber shop for characters who haven’t had a haircut in two years.