How The Elder Scrolls Online plans to improve MMOs: "I look at the world, not at my hotbar"
High level MMO play is typically associated with stacks and stacks of ability icons lighting up and flickering in and out of of cooldown animations. Zenimax reckon that modern technology and improved latency means there's no need to rely on those flashing icons when you can accurately see how the action is playing out in the game world. You'll still have combat skills, of course, but they'll be tucked away in a minimalist interface designed to bring the player further into the world.
Lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle explains. "I think a lot of the previous generations of MMOs a lot of the game is looking at that UI and playing it. Technical restrictions were such that we couldn't have that sort of fully immersive battle experience because people weren't where they were, where you would see them, they were somewhere else.
"But we wanted to create an immersive experience because that's the modern game, that's the modern RPG," he says. "One in which I look at the world, not at my hotbar. Not at numbers that are flying up."
That'll be the only way to see some of the massive fights that will feature in The Elder Scrolls Online. "If you're looking at your UI when there's 200 people on your screen fighting each other you're kind of missing out on one of the big things that we're trying to do which is these huge battles," says PvP designer Brian Wheeler. "If you're looking at the UI then you're missing all the fun of just seeing people jumping in and beating the crap out of each other. It's really cool."
Even beyond The Elder Scrolls Online's big PvP plans, the reduced UI is intended to help players confront Tamriel's monsters. Zenimax suggest they'll be tougher than your typical MMO trash mobs. "We want monsters to be a challenge to the player every single time you fight them, not a speedbump for the player. We don't want fighting monsters to be boring or you can eat a sandwich or do five other things while fighting a monster," says gameplay designer Maria Aliprando.
"We want to reward you for executing moves and fighting against monsters as well. So when monsters present their dynamic behaviours we don't want to confuse you with UI all over the screen we want you to be in there fighting with the monster at the moment."
Game director Matt Firor mentions another reason for the slimmed down interface. "We made a lot of choices to make it very accessible to the player who's only experienced the console versions of The Elder Scrolls."
"Things like the interface is very minimalistic and it lets you concentrate on the world, not on the interface, so we made it feel much more like a console game from the interface side than an MMO, just for that reason, to make sure that everyone feels comfortable when they play it."
To find out more about how combat works in The Elder Scrolls Online, check out our article on how combat works in The Elder Scrolls Online. You can also check out how Skyrim and Oblivion have influenced The Elder Scrolls Online, or head over to our everything you need to know about The Elder Scrolls Online page. Our chums at Edge also have plenty of exclusive info on The Elder Scrolls Online if you're looking for more.