Tamriel Infinium: What we know about Elder Scrolls Online’s Imperial City

    
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Tamriel Infinium: What we know about Elder Scrolls Online’s Imperial City

Even before the PC launch of the Elder Scrolls Online last year, there was something the community pined for: the Imperial City. In my first trip to Cyrodiil, I hopped on my horse to see if I could catch a glimpse of the White-Gold Tower at the center of the capital. As I galloped over a hill in the southwest of the Cyrodiil woods heading north, the shadow of a giant spire peeked out from the dense fog.

It’s not often anymore that we are awed by the scale of an MMO, especially since so many MMORPGs close themselves off with zones or a ton of instances — ESO does the same. But it’s nice to know that the developers did a great job of keeping the scale and the beauty of the land yet still sectioning off parts.

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A little bit of history

Despite our being able to see the White-Gold Tower since the launch of the game, there has been no way to reach the bastion of the Empire in person. But the new rumors hold that the Imperial City will hit the PTS around the time when the console version of the game launches in June. In fact, we’ve been told on the ESO livestreams that we will hear official news about the Imperial City when the console version arrives, which is now only a few weeks away. And we do know quite a bit about what we will see just based on the lore of the city and some video footage that was released a while back.

The Imperial City made its first appearance in the very first Elder Scrolls game, Arena, although at that point it looked more like a dungeon level in DOOM than anything modern games would recognize. Interestingly, even though the Imperial city is nowhere near the province of Skyrim, you can see the tower in the far distance in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In fact, people have glitched a wall in Riften to run to see it. They could save themselves the trouble, however, as the capital and its many districts have a starring role in Oblivion.

In the Elder Scrolls Online, the Imperial City has been ransacked by Molag Bal and his forces, led by Mannimarco. In fact, you can see this whole display in the Blur-created trailers that predated the launch of the game; the last installment featured Mannimarco dropping when Tamriel Unlimited was announced. But like other MMO Blur trailers, the ESO trailers blew us away… but told us nothing about the gameplay we’d find. Even though the all the trailers add up to a super-long, 20-minute fight scene, we learn nothing about the history of the world, either.

Thankfully, a year ago at QuakeCon, ZeniMax gave us a gameplay-related video that teases what we will actually find in the fractured and nearly destroyed city.

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Arena district

I don’t think we will find the same things in ESO‘s Imperial City that we did in Oblivion, but we will likely see some sort of gladiator fighting. We’ve already seen the men in cages and the arena itself. I’m hoping that this isn’t just set dressing.

There is supposed to be PvP all over the Imperial City, akin to what we have across the rest of Cyrodiil, but this will likely be closer quarters and will have — I’m sure many PvPers are glad to hear — no sieges. Although we aren’t 100% sure, the belief is that all the siege weapons will not be useful in the Imperial City. This means that combat will be mostly based on the skill of the player alone.

I’ve seen speculation that there might be actual arena fights, scaled to 2v2 or 4v4, in the arena district. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that will be the case. It’s more likely that we will see the Imperial City become more of a smaller-scale Cyrodiil. Each district will likely be claimable by opposing factions; owning a district will probably grant you perks, but nothing too substantial or game-breaking.

TI-header-2015-imperial-city-sub03Aboretum District

If you recall the Aboretum district from Oblivion, then you know that the statues of the nine divines are posed around this area of the city, with the statue of Talos sitting squarely in the middle. But Talos hasn’t even been born at the time of The Elder Scrolls Online, so obviously his statue will not be there — but we can probably expect the other eight. Also consider that we’ll be attempting to take back the Imperial City for our faction after it has been desecrated by Molag Bol’s daedra. Would they tear down these statues — or maybe replace them?

It’s rumored that the Imperial City will have a heavy amount of PvE in this PvP. Does this mean that we will have actual quests in the Imperial City? That sounds intriguing, and I love the idea of PvE in a PvP zone. But I have never seen PvE and PvP mix well. Perhaps ZeniMax will find a balance, but I fear that it will turn out much the same way Restus did in Star Wars Galaxies. The best weapon in the game dropped off a mob in the PvP zone, so you’d either have to find a large group to protect you as you hunted for the weapon, or you’d have to get really lucky and hit the population downtime for the server.

Market District

The Market District presents another way the best-in-slot gear could present itself in a PvP zone that might work out for the good of the game. We know that there will be a new armor motif introduced in the next big patch. Perhaps some other gear will also be presented in the same way, and crafters will have to make it. Perhaps best-in-slot will be a crafted item.

In the QuakeCon video, the Market District really doesn’t look like much more than just another zone for PvP, but maybe it’s more than meets the eye.

Temple District

The Temple District in the video doesn’t seem to present anything special other than a few daedra NPCs, which suggests that there will be PvE and PvP in the same zone. I did like the inclusion of the door to what appeared to be the White-Gold Tower there.

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Crossroad Sewers

If the rumors again are true, our entrance to the Imperial City will be via the sewer. I’ll buy that given that the bridges are out and giant monsters guard the gates. However, I would like to take the sewer entrance a step further by suggesting that the sewers might act as their own PvP zone. It could be built like a labyrinth with boss fights and other encounters tripping up the pure PvP map. If any place in the new city is going to have instanced PvP, I believe we will find it in the sewers of the Imperial City.

What you think about the Imperial City? We know that it’s coming soon — most likely in the next patch to the PTS. Are you excited about re-entering some of those areas that you haven’t seen since Oblivion? Does the mix of PvP and PvE turn you off the game or make you more excited? Will ZeniMax have the first MMO to mix PvP and PvE well? Until next time, I will see you in Tamriel.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.

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StClair
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StClair

CrowingOne The problem with that video, IMO, is that the res is so terribly low – not a problem for the Arena footage, but has the effect of making the Oblivion graphics look almost as blocky and blotchy.  There are times I wouldn’t know the latter wasn’t sprite-based, just from what’s on the screen.

JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

Werewolf Finds Dragon There’s a lot that goes into the design, like view distance and the like. If you go up, you can very quickly lose your suspension of disbelief because you soon realize the “world” ends about a half a mile away. However, Elder Scrolls games, particularly since the nearly limitless size of Daggerfall, have always prided themselves on the size and breadth of their game worlds, so seeing ESO take this tact is no suprise, and I agree, it’s pleasing.
Additionally, if you start going “up” – the devs have to take into consideration how autofollow will work (for both characters and pets). How line of sight will work, or what happens when a monster can’t attack you, due to its inability to climb or reach you – just to name a few.

Some other games with “verticality” as you say: 

Aion: (tons  of flying as well, for that matter). It’s 3D, but I could only play the game for about 3-4 months due to the ridiculous grinding). 

Neverwinter: Has some, perhaps they’re more like hills, and the zones are really small. But, they would probably equate to the way the dungeons are designed in ESO. 

DCOU: Has straight up flying. Some zones are hillier than others, but even their city zones have many story buildings and the zones are surprisingly immersive.

LOTRO – Definitely have some vistas which are a joy to explore. This world is extremely well done. It’s lesser known cousing, DDO, also has decent hills, etc.

SWTOR: Depends on the world, who, IIRC, were done by different designers. Some worlds, like Alderaan, have hills all over the place, almost to the point of annoyance. So, Tattooine is largely flat desert, Hoth is mostly flat ice, with the occassional hill, and they also toss in a type of death inducing effect if you climb too high. 

Rift: Now, this game probably tops them all, insofar as mountains go. It had numerous achievements for exploration and for finding some of the most obscure bits of treasure scattered around. In fact, I don’t know that there exists a more “vertical” game than Rift when it comes to MMOs. Archage also has some pretty good mountains. 

I’ve been all over ESO, and, as much as I enjoyed the zones, the variety and the world in general, I don’t know that I’d say that it surpassed games like SWTOR, LOTRO and certainly not Rift or Archeage. 

Note, I’m not saying everyone should rush off and play these games. ;) Just commenting on the idea of “verticality” and/or the immersion along with it. (I’m an exploring player at heart, so I find the idea at least intriguing.)

Not that any of this has much,if anything, to do with the accompanying article. ;)

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

That doesn’t surprise me, considering the general sandparky feel of ESO, to be honest. I wouldn’t mind betting that they have other sandbox influences there as well.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

That was pretty big for a fantasy city, honestly. One thing to consider is the dangerous nature of fantasy worlds directly means that the population is going to be much, much lower. Natural selection and all that.
So the Imperial City felt like it was the perfect size for a ‘giant fantasy city.’ It’s not going to be like New York, after all, as there’s no natural selection to speak of occurring within the world today. None.
There aren’t any idiots annoying dragons or going on adventures without any training like what you’d have in a fantasy world. Not to mention that crime in the average fantasy world seems to be disproportionate due to the lack of policing, so that’s another way that often gets people killed.
The population just isn’t going to be that huge.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

I think my only problem with the scale of ESO is that the towns feel too small (not enough NPC houses), and the NPCs themselves don’t have schedules. Perhaps one of those things will be fixed with the Thieves Guild update. I’d love to see wandering NPCs, though. It’d be fun to track down an NPC who has a cycle, where they might be working a farm field or hanging out at the inn depending on the time of day.
The zones themselves though have a great sense of scale. Grahtwood has been particularly impressive. The tree has an almost Everquest feel about it, what with the giant throne room. And there’s a great amount of verticality, too. It caught me off guard how layered Grahtwood is, since you often don’t see that.
There are also dungeons that do things that most MMOs ignore — such as verticality. I remember crossing a bridge with me beau and thinking ‘wait, that’s where we were earlier, down there.’ And that was confirmed. You don’t see that in MMOs. You just… really don’t see verticality.
I have a huge love of verticality, that’s what often leads me to wallwalk in MMOs, wherever I can. I want to get to the highest points and see what the land looks like.
Usually flat. Wildstar and GW2 were notorious for flat zones, so far as I could remember, from the zones I played. They did much with rocks, trees, and the occasional waterfall to make it feel less so, but the vast majority was just… flat.
MMOs love their flatlands. You don’t often find yourself climbing a hill in an MMO. Just walking along almost perfectly horizontal ground.
The usual way they offset this is funny — they have wiggly roads. I remember the roads in WoW felt like they were built by having road-laying and bridge building crews follow a drunken orc around. They actually felt like that, and make me feel a little ill from time to time because they were anything but a direct road.
But yes, ESO has a good sense of verticality and scale. Definitely not one of the things that needs improving, as I think they’ve nailed that.

DPandaren
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DPandaren

I hope the city is far larger then it’s representation in Oblivion.

erlexx
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erlexx

Isarii The Imperial City is directly lifted from Dark Age Of Camelots Darkness Falls – Brian Wheeler (one of the developers of Darkness Falls and lead developer of The Imperial City DLC) said so himself ;)

Isarii
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Isarii

” Will ZeniMax have the first MMO to mix PvP and PvE well?”

You mean besides the game The Imperial City as a game system is directly lifted from, right?

hugmonster
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hugmonster

CrowingOne Oh, Sweet Metroid Metal.

Lheiah
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Lheiah

Xomon I constantly get 2 to 3 second lag spikes just questing outside of Cyrodiil, also a good bit of rubber banding. My latency meter is all over the place from low 100’s to sometimes in the several thousand milliseconds. I was thinking it had to be mostly on my end. If it’s on their end, what I am experiencing, I can’t see the community not forming with pitchforks and oil in hand.

I guess this mega server tech has good points and bad ones. Wish they would go more for a regional mega server; west coast, east coast, europe, pacific, etc. /shrug