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!
Lust for Argonian culture
Shadows of the Hist, the next ESO update, is the first time that we will really get to dive into the Black Marsh in any Elder Scrolls game. Firor did point out to me that technically Shadowfen is in the Black Marsh, but it’s a border zone full of Dunmer “contamination.” He did say that although the Shadow of the Hist will take us into Black Marsh, it’s more of a “look-in to the culture of the Argonians, not a full DLC with quests and full lore dumps.” In other words, we are still taking snapshots of the Argonian culture and not really a full documentary. Still, as Firor put it, “Any fan of the Argonians will find a lot of information about his or her favorite race, and of course the dungeons are packed with interesting enemies and great loot.”
We may not be destined to meet the Lusty Argonian Maid, but we are going to get a truly Argonian dungeon. In fact, Shadows of the Hist will contain two four-man dungeons with both standard and veteran difficulties, adding to the already great small-group content that ESO already has.
Expanding Cyrodiil PvP
You will never find a more passionate group of people than PvPers, and ESO PvPers are the same. They love the sieges that we find in Cyrodiil and the capture mechanics of the Imperial City. And Firor said that a combination of those two gameplay styles has been requested for a long time. Cropsford, Vlastarus, and Bruma are three cities with varying degrees of NPC defense. The patch notes explain what PvPers gain by capturing these towns: “Ownership of a town grants that Alliance another place to respawn from PVP deaths, as well as access to town merchants that sell purple-quality gear set pieces for Alliance Points.” In other words, it’s the same thing that capturing other points give you, but perhaps on a grander scale.
“We love this feature for a few reasons,” Firor explained to us, “the most important of which is that it gives PvP players more to do — adding on to the keep capture-and-defend game. Also, we really want to give players the feeling that they are involved in a territorial struggle for Cyrodiil, so giving them more territory to hold and defend adds to the feeling that your side is winning (or losing!) the overall war.”
Since we were on the subject of PvP, I asked about some of the lag issues that players have noticed in Cyrodiil. We see lag in nearly every MMO in existence, but Cyrodiil’s PvP issues have seemed extraordinary — PvP is still playable, but players have been able to take advantage of client-to-server communication issues and others are dropped from the server altogether. And Firor agreed, saying, “Interestingly enough, our client performance in PvP is pretty solid; it’s the server that gets bogged down when too many players congregate in large keep sieges that cause performance problems and disconnects.”
Firor was frank and upfront about what the ZOS team is doing about the issues; he summed it up by saying that it’s nearly impossible to replicate the issues internally or on the test servers because those servers cannot gather the number people that the live servers can. “This means we can’t make sweeping changes, as there is too much risk of introducing instability,” he said. “The good news is that we have made significant progress, and the changes we introduced in Update 10 have brought noticeable improvement.” He said that he understands that the community wants the issues fixed immediately, but the team is not done yet with Cyrodiil fixes. He also thanked everyone in the community for being patient.
One Tamriel is not the end of progression
In my last Tamriel Infinium, I wrote a lot of words about level-syncing and how it could be the best thing or the worst thing that we see in ESO, and since I had Firor on the line, I felt that I should ask him his thoughts on the player concerns. “The chief argument against One Tamriel is progression-based: Many players believe that they will lose that sense of accomplishment from gaining levels,” I explained. “So why make level-syncing mandatory and not optional?” This was his reply:
“We are not removing levels, so moment to moment gameplay will be no different from how it is currently. What we are doing is divorcing player level from world content, so instead of moving through Tamriel in a prescribed fashion, you’ll be able to do it in any order you want. While you are questing, PvP’ing, dungeon diving, exploring, etc., you will still be gaining experience and going up in level. When you level, you’ll still be assigning skill points, learning new skill, and unlocking new skill lines. When you hit level 50, you will still be graduating to veteran rank, and will start accruing Champion Points, all in the same way you currently do. So in that sense we are not changing progression.
“However, the gear chase will be different in One Tamriel – as all drops are normalized to your level, we will change the gear system to ensure that there are always more powerful weapons, armor, and other gear for you to craft, quest, dungeon/trial dive, and PvP for. We’ll be releasing more information about these changes closer to the release of One Tamriel on PTS.”
Living in Tamriel
Player housing is very important to me; I’m extraordinarily interested personal customization and immersion in my MMORPG. So I couldn’t let Firor escape without asking him about player housing. He was a little dodgy given that housing isn’t coming fully for at least another six months, but he did explain why Bethsoft brought it up so early at E3. “I wanted to be sure that our community knows that we are doing lots more than just One Tamriel, which was the focus of my stage presentation,” he told us. “We have plans stretching out far longer than that, but we can’t talk about everything. We need to focus on what is coming up in the next six months, so for details, we are concentrating on Update 11 and One Tamriel. Trust me, when housing details come out, you will be very happy.”
That being said, an intrepid MOP tipster named Thorsten noticed something very interesting in the PTS patch notes for this week. “A few new buildings were added to several zones, and the zone maps were updated accordingly. These buildings are not accessible at this time. In some of these locations, wildlife, and/or bystanders were removed or adjusted to make way for the new construction. In addition, some residents have been moved from their homes, and those buildings are no longer accessible. These changes are in preparation for the upcoming release of Player Housing.” OK, now I’m excited.
Keeping the momentum going
Lastly, I asked Firor about the rest of 2016 and what the ZOS team will be working on beyond the Shadows of the Hist. “For the rest of 2016 we are doing what we do best: release new content, new features, and respond to community feedback,” he replied. “I know ESO players want to see development happen faster, but if you look at what we have done in the last 18 months, you’ll see that we have responded to feedback, added five DLCs of really good content, and continue to make the game better with One Tamriel, and after that, housing. We aren’t perfect, and we make mistakes and there are definitely problems to fix, but we are happy with where we are and what we’ve achieved. We have a development plan that stretches out for a long, long time – but you’ll have to wait for details.”
We’d like to thank Matt Firor for speaking with us and then turn it over to our readers: What do you think? What are you looking most forward to in ESO’s future? Do you think that ZOS will make the improvements you’re hoping for? Let me know in the comments below.