Tamriel Infinium: Battlegrounds will change Elder Scrolls Online PvP forever

I’ve read all the impressions from the PAX East show that I could find, and they were all overwhelmingly mild — including ours. As you hopefully know by now, Elder Scrolls Online showed off its instanced PvP battlegrounds, and the media consensus is that they are… coming. And that’s it. This really surprised me. It’s superficially hard to tell whether people have come to expect one thing from battlegrounds (because so many other games already have them) and ESO really isn’t changing the formula — or the battlegrounds really aren’t anything to write home about.

If you were to take Lead PvP Designer Brian Wheeler’s word for it, battlegrounds will change PvP in ESO forever because they’re a type of PvP that ESO has never had before, which is true. Personally, I do believe not only that battlegrounds will bring something special to Elder Scrolls Online but that other games should pay attention to ESO because it’s actually doing something innovative without drawing too much attention to it.

Battlegrounds aren’t perfect; there will be some drawbacks, but let’s take an honest look at what this new PvP type means for Elder Scrolls Online and maybe other MMOs in the future.

Three-way face off

After Dark Age of Camelot introduced us to the thrill of open-world, three-faction combat way back in the early aughts, it took a long time for other games to pick up the mantel. Other MMORPGs with decent PvP, like World of Warcraft and RIFT, decided that the best thing to do was to pit one team directly against one other team. That’s been the tradition for many PvP-centered themeparks, MMORPG or otherwise. Although the original Guild Wars and other games did have maps that introduced three-team conflict, I don’t think that RvRvR picked up steam until it was reintroduced to modern MMOers in Guild Wars 2. That game really showed how this three-way tug-of-war gave PvP an interesting and fun dynamic.

Sometimes in PvP, you just have to change a tiny thing to make a big impact on the perception of the matches. Star Wars: The Old Republic did this with Huttball, which was really just capture-the-flag, but players could throw the “flag” to each other. Elder Scrolls Online will change the dynamic of battlegrounds by simply adding a third faction.

Just as DAoC and GW2 spiced up open-world combat by introducing a third faction, ESO‘s battlegrounds will create this constant three-way struggle — but on a micro scale. The strategic planning that players would usually find in RvR will now happen on a smaller, faster scale. The decisions and consequences of double-teaming against the third team will be felt immediately rather than on a massive battlefield with long-term objectives. And the betrayal will be sudden and inevitable.

Game-types and shared maps

When I spoke to Wheeler a few weeks back, I didn’t give a second thought to the different game types or the maps themselves. I had assumed that each game-type would have its own map. It wasn’t until I asked which map would have which game type did I realize that all three maps will host all three game types. This isn’t a new concept in other games, but it’s unprecedented for MMORPGs. Most instanced PvP in MMORPGs have one game-type per map.

If we hop back to SWTOR, you’ll only see Huttball on a Huttball map. However, in Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind, we might be at the Foyada Quarry, but the game could be capture-the-flag or maybe team deathmatch as it was at PAX East.

Morrowind will launch with three different maps and three different games. Ald Carac is an old Dwemer city like the one we saw in the Blur trailer. Ularra is an old Daedric holy grounds that is overgrown because the Dark Elves have stopped worshipping Daedra and worship the Tribunal now. And the map shown at PAX East is a quarry at the foot of Red Mountain called Foyada Quarry.

Because of the three-team dynamic, ZeniMax doesn’t really have to mix up the game types all that much; they are all pretty standard: Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Domination. But since there are three teams and you don’t know which map you’re going to pop on, it’s nice that the ruleset is familiar.

Lazy PvP

Lastly, I would believe that battlegrounds will pull people from the other types of PvP that ESO already offers, or at very least, they could change the way people play the other types of PvP, making the players lazy and less reliable.

Instanced PvP is easy. I don’t mean that there is no challenge, although that might eventually be the case. It’s just that instanced PvP requires no planning, no forethought, and no group to gather together. Players literally log into the game, queue up, and wait for PvP to come to them. It’s possible that people will log in, stand in one place, and log out after a couple of matches.

Many people of a certain PvP gamer archetype who have never played the game before will likely come to ESO: Morrowind strictly because of this PvP type. They are a net gain for the game itself and will have no real impact on Imperial City or Cyrodiil. But there are many people in Imperial City and Cyrodiil because that is the way that they get their MMO PvP fix, and when battlegrounds releases, they will prefer that kind of PvP to get their fix.

I also foresee some players logging into Cyrodiil or Imperial City, maybe even getting a small group together. But the ultimate goal will be to queue up for battlegrounds. For those who take the lead in Cryodiil, it will make for an unpredictable group dynamic. Leaders will not know if they can count on those people being there for keep sieges. Since Cyrodiil usually takes long-term strategy, these kinds of players will be an ultimate detriment to the zone.

Mix the previous players with those who will stop logging into Cyrodiil and Imperial City, and I believe that battlegrounds will ultimately be a net negative for existing PvP overall. Players will lean toward the game type that gives them their PvP fix with the least amount of effort, and in the end, battlegrounds will fit that bill the best.

I am very glad to see battlegrounds being introduced ESO, but realistically, I know that Cyrodiil and Imperial City will suffer for it when it launches. Hopefully, ESO will find some kind of equilibrium in the end, but that will take time.

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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Everyone (those developing newer games) always seems to forget one major reason WHY the 3-faction RvR PvP system worked in Dark Age of Camelot. It’s because there were immediate, real world benefits to controlling the relics. Your realm got access to Darkness Falls, you had buffs applied realm wide, etc.

As long as the PvP in these other games benefits only the players, and the faction does nothing but assign you to a team, it will never be the equal of Dark Age of Camelot’s Realm War.

Period. The end.

Blood Ravens Gaming

Much of the concerns expressed are valid, but for me I am looking forward to Battlegrounds mostly because it should work and play smoothly. I left ESO for about 9 months due solely to the fact that Cyrodiil performance was crap! Even now in Cyrodiil running around completing small objectives and staying out of large sieges Cyrodiil lags, hitches, huge ping spikes and many more bugs and glitches.

I welcome smaller scale 3 sided PvP to ESO in hopes that it….. works and is enjoyable.

roo woods
roo woods

I recently returned to Elder Scrolls . I don’t mind at all if the battlegrounds are similar to others that I have played in other games . The ones in Rift are mostly very similar to ones in WoW and that was a plus for me but Rifts so dead now I decided to more to ESO and the only thing I have been missing is instanced pvp so this is all good with me .

Its not a perfect game by any means ( WoW Vanilla with its open world pvp and factions was a close as it got ) but I cant find anything to better it at the moment)


“Instanced PvP is easy. I don’t mean that there is no challenge, although that might eventually be the case. It’s just that instanced PvP requires no planning, no forethought, and no group to gather together.”

What ? Are you kidding me ? You must have bever played PvP competitivley. It requires a lot of planning how you setup your group, what classes and builds do you bring, what synergies can you take advantage off etc. etc.. If you want to be successfull in battle grounds and here we are talking about 4vs4vs4 aka small scale you will get your ass kicked if you don´t know what you or your mates do.

My concern is how match making will work. ESO unfortunately is like many other MMO´s extremely gear and in that special case CP dependant. So if they match for example 160CP folks with fresh 50´s that will be dumb.

CloakingDonkey .

I used to think 3 faction battlegrounds would be really cool, like you… but then I took Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes to the gibblies and was instantly cured of that silly, silly notion.


To be clear, ESO is now my new MMO and for the most part I have been enjoying it. I’m starting to question why I’m logging in but don’t know if that’s related to me being overwhelmed or if I feel like I’m not progressing fast enough. I’m definitely going to give it more time as I haven’t made it to any of the DLC and fighting to rush off to do it (because I can) and trying to slow down seeing if that enhances my experience.

As for PvP it’s not my thing. A few battlegrounds may be interesting but it would never be anything long term. I love my fellow PvPers, but yall have some ego issues that has devolved every iteration of survival/PvP I have ever played consistently. I don’t see that changing.

If it brings people to the game and widens its appeal. I’m all for it.

Chris Walker

I spend about 90% of my ESO time in Cyrodiil and IC, so I’m definitely looking forward to even more pvp variety in the new battlegrounds. However, I admit to being nervous about the population impact to Cyrodiil, a zone whose fun is extremely dependent on the number of people in it.


This. I really hate arena PvP. not really sure if Battlegrounds will fit that bill. but if it kills Cyrodiil, that will be the last time I log into TESO.

Wanda Clamshuckr

Firstly, thank you Larry for a more fleshed-out article on the Battlegrounds.

On to your concerns about “Lazy PvP”:

In DAoC, there was Big Boy RvR (Cyrodil’s equivalent) and the Battlegrounds. Both were very distinct playstyles, as you noted, but there wasn’t any “stealing” of populations per se. The people who loved lvl 50 RvR stuck with it and those who loved the Battlegrounds did the same. Yes, there was some intermingling. I mean, who didn’t love Thid! But, the populations were fairly independent of one another.

Battlegrounds don’t necessarily promote laziness either. The distances you have to run around in are shorter, and you are working with small group dynamics (vs zerg spam) and thus tighter tactics. Smaller scale !=! laziness. If you ever ran around the BG’s in DAoC regularly, you’d know that people who did that exclusively were very good at their classes and very efficient at keep taking.

I remember reading threads when ESO was first launched and discussion rolled around to this very topic when the Battlegrounds were mentioned. There was the camp who believed exactly as Larry posits in the latter half of his article, and then the other people who contradicted them with facts and experience, rather than supposition. Fears of populations splitting up, yada yada, and then one group being superior than the other, because, “Big Boy” PvP is somehow intrinsically better.

People who don’t like to zerg, who like smaller groups or 1v1, or running around forever to reach your target will be more attracted to the BG’s. They’ll learn the maps, develop tactics and builds to achieve their goals in a faster time, and have a lot of fun. Laziness? Pfft.

Threevo V

Sorry but no. A good chunk of players actually want pvp that makes you actually carry your own weight. Cyrodil is fine for what it is, but the majority of it is spectacle amd running with the crowd. Moments where you actually get into an engagement where you are challenged to outplay another is incredibly rare.

Far too often you have people sitting around or sieging a keep and behaving like that is really what pvp is about. I mean technically yes you are helping the cause but you are hardly stressing your ability to perform in a moment to moment balanced fight against another group with a brain.

Smallcale instanced pvp needed to happen so there could be an engaging pvp system to actually put responsibility on each player, where individual performance has meaningful results, where when you win or lose, you can know exactly why and where to improve. 3 way bgs are not the answer but is far and away better than the lag infested siege dropping, rapid regen spamming “im pvping guys!” Nonsense that exists now. Where i have to run around for minutes on end to even hope for an engagement that tests my ability instead of just getting plowed by a player count variable.

If these bgs end up a bust, i for one will be putting the game down.

Frank White

While I don’t disagree with you that smallscale instanced pvp can help hone your skills and all that, I don’t think it’s always the case that the results are more “meaningful” or “responsible.” Different people are going to have different ideas of what’s meaningful. Some people will see engaging in RvR as being more meaningful, because it has an effect on your entire realm and the game to some extent, whereas they’ll see pvp as mostly giving you a personal rank and bragging rights. One you do for personal vainglory, the other you do for the good of the realm/world – at least that’s how some will see it. And let’s be honest, even in RvR or WvW you get plenty of people who just run around looking for one-vs-one or small fights. You see this all the time in GW2, even though there’s already instanced PvP that they could do instead. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

Dani Reasor
Dani Reasor

I’ve always preferred small team PvE content to raids for the same reason. I’m more engaged, my contribution matters, and it’s easy to evaluate where I can improve afterward.

CloakingDonkey .

That is a nice selection of weasel words you have there mate. I’m gonna put a big fat [citation needed] on all that, thank you very much.


As a PvP focused player who recently returned to ESO let me explain to you one of the hugely dissuading facts about ESO PvP: Gearing up for PvP is a nightmare. I mean lets just side step the whole Champion Rank 600 point for now and focus on gear. A lot of good PvP builds pretty much require PvE sets to get. Monster Helms/Shoulders come to Cyrodill each week but only as Impen or the very costly Infused version (and you pretty much make no money in PvP so good luck with the 200k price tag). I ended up settling for a set where the weapon cost 250k minimum to buy. More specifically any dungeon sets are a nightmare where if you’re going with a 2/5/5 setup that means you need a weapon and if that weapon drops in a dungeon unless it’s a named version you’re going to be running that place for a very long time for that 1% drop rate or less.

Also as a PvP veteran let me tell you that 3 way battles are, resoundingly, the worst form of PvP setup. A lot of people like to tote around the classic example of, “Oh well if Team 1 is super strong then Team 2 and 3 can double team them and it all equals out!” While I would be lying if I said this never happened, the more practical reality is whomever the strong team attacks the other team tends to just pile onto them because they are weak and easier target. You see this all the time in Cyrodill where one side is going for Emperor and attacking one faction and the other faction goes behind the defender and starts taking scrolls.

We’ll see how things go, but at the end of the day it’s ZOS we’re talking about here and the measuring bar for what to expect is pretty much on the ground.

odin valhalla

The 3 way reality in ESO is absolutely hampered by the Emperor Mechanic, and it used to be much worse (remember when you always got the passives?). You’ll get people faction hoping to help the emp push, guilds coordinate this cross faction. Again, it used to be much worse but you bet it still goes on.

Battlegrounds is going to be a nice diversion, the issue is going to be incentives to keep people there. IC should serve as a potent reminder to Zos that just because you build it doesn’t mean people will come. Further, ZOS has made the game more casual friendly over time. You can be a near full time PVE player, come out, raid up and roll. Battlegrounds is going to expose this reality. Youre going to have people who are dedicated PVP players face roll casuals and its not going to go over well.

Zos has created the conditions by which the community demands and gets gratification. From easier leveling, undaunted is easier, battle leveling, scaled gear, cross faction access the list is pretty extensive. I don’t see how this customer base currently is going to be a high consumer of this feature. Probably get a lot of traffic early on, but 6 months to a year from now?


That may be the case for ESO, i never got high enough level to considering PvPing, but three-way battles were hella-fun in DAoC.


In DAOC we used to do the same thing. We’d be going for Relics against Hib and Alb would come in and double team them. Same thing would happen in Planeside 1 and 2.

It’s tactically the smart decision to attack the opponent who can’t defend itself.

CloakingDonkey .

No the smart thing would be for the Albs to attack your Relics while they are undefended. ;) Which would then split your attention and do exactly what 3 faction PvP is supposed to do.

What you’re describing is not the smart thing to do, it’s the USUAL thing all the muppets do.

3 faction battlegrounds are an entirely different thing though. DAoC or PS style PvP usually comes with huge open world zones, that allow for maneuvers, distractions, backstabbing, etc etc. A battleground has to be a certain, relevatively small size so that riding back from the graveyard isn’t such a pain. Meaning it usually just turns into a nonsensical pants-on-head 3 way brawl in the middle… Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes is the example here… Ironically, it’s the perfect player balance that screws up the 3 faction system.