ZeniMax Online has opened the new year with more answers to the community's understandably endless questions about the Elder Scrolls Online. The most recent batch of revelations concerns the Daggerfall Covenant, one of the three player factions that comprises the Redguard, the Orcs, and the Bretons. While my true Nord brothers and sisters in the Ebonheart Pact probably only need to know: "Where are they?" and "Which axe should I bring?," knowing our enemies a bit better couldn't hurt.
Zenimax Online Studios
Bethesda has busied itself with dispensing vast dollops of lore upon fans anticipating The Elder Scrolls Online since the debut of the first full-fledged gameplay glimpse. This time, the Aldmeri Dominion player faction took the spotlight in a Q&A posted on the official website, with development team members answering questions regarding Wood Elves, High Elves, and the catlike Khajiit.
Bethesda's latest trailer for The Elder Scrolls Online may have just changed my mind about the game: I was a little lukewarm on the idea before - now I am rather Dovah-keen. The video shows off the first proper gameplay footage (rather than the environmental fly-by videos we've seen previously) and talks us through the MMO's features. You can read our earlier in-depth Elder Scrolls impressions here, or hit the jump and see the trailer for yourself.
The few glimpses we've seen of Bethesda and Zenimax's Elder Scrolls Online could double as tour brochure snapshots with their epic extravagance and totally non-coincidental poses. A recent preview event has further illuminated the breadth and complexity of an MMO-ified Tamriel with a set of new screenshots. Among other vistas, see some loot-laden starlit ruins (watch out for Draugr!), shield yourself from the fiery burp of an alligator demon, and get ushered into the steam-hiss cacophony of a Dwarven city by the ever-annoying Sphere. Take a look inside.
You might have noticed we've been flinging up video interviews with the key designers behind the MMORPGification of the Elder Scrolls series. That's because I went out to their studio in Baltimore to see it. We've got an in-depth preview in the issue out in the UK on the 6th, but I'll give you a quick breakdown of what I thought, in various areas.
Tom went to visit Zenimax Online Studios recently to take an early look at The Elder Scrolls Online. He sat down with game director Matt Firor to talk about the challenges of bringing The Elder Scrolls into an MMO setting, with reference to character building, skills and more. To hear more from the designers of The Elder Scrolls Online, check out our 20 minute video interview with Maria Aliprando, Nick Konkle and Brian Wheeler. Check out our post on everything you need to know about The Elder Scrolls Online for more details.
Tom was lucky enough to interview Maria Aliprando, Nick Konkle and Brian Wheeler a few weeks ago. They're the gameplay and PVP designers for the Elder Scrolls Online.
Watch the exclusive interview after the jump. You might want to grab a beverage too; it's a whopping 17 minutes long, and includes heated debates about about fire and frost and all kinds of mystical things.
How do you tell every player that they're the saviour of the world in an MMO? It's a sticky question that many MMOs face, and that few deal with especially well. Tom sat down with game director Matt Firor to find out how Zenimax approach the problem in The Elder Scrolls Online.
"The way we do that in Elder Scrolls Online is there are parts of the game that you just do solo and you just do in a story instance. So the main backbone story of the game, which is your interaction with Molag Bal, one of the Daedric princes, you're the hero in that story, so you experience that only yourself."
It's a familiar technique we've seen before in Star Wars: The Old Republic, LoTRO and many other MMOs that do their storytelling in carefully choreographed instances. TOR even employs hazy barriers across certain entrances in the game world to stop incompatible classes from wandering into cutscenes that aren't meant for them. It's a jarring system, but it prevents situations in which dozens of players cluster around story NPCs, triggering separate text boxes to further their quest. It's also useful for MMO players who like to play solo.
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."
So, we've put dozens and dozens of hours into Skyrim, and we'll put in many more. The Dawnguard expansion is coming up and the Steam workshop is turning up new places to explore every few weeks. Why would we want to hop into The Elder Scrolls Online? For studio general manager, Matt Firor, the answer is simple. It's Tamriel. "It's a world you've always wanted to explore with friends, and now you can."
Zenimax Online Studios haven't had to sit down and draft an entire world from scratch. 18 years of Elder Scrolls games and expansions have poured oodles of detail into the lore of that world. From Morrowind to Oblivion and Skyrim, each game has sketched more detail onto that grand world map. The Elder Scrolls Online will let us wander those lands and discover new ones. "You've been able to explore parts of each province before, but now you get much more of the world," says Firor.
I had a chance to chat with the lead designers of the forthcoming Elder Scrolls MMO recently, and I asked them how combat and character progression work. Gameplay designer Nick Konkle talked me through how they've tried to apply the principles of the Elder Scrolls games into an MMORPG.
Your skill bar in The Elder Scrolls Online has six slots, so Nick explained what you can put in each one. With great enthusiasm.
Boomy, Michael Gambon-esque voice? An ancient symbol coming together in the mists, possibly the mists of time? Epic, rousing music? No actual sight of gameplay? Why, yes! It's the Elder Scrolls online trailer, which we've been eagerly awaiting since the game's announcement yesterday. www.elderscrollsonline.com has just gone live, too, but at the moment it's just some atmospheric HTML holding the above trailer, nothing more. We did have fun switching the copyright notice at the bottom between French, German and English though.
An Elder Scrolls MMO could be announced as early as May according to a report on Tom's Guide. An unnamed source has told them that Elder Scrolls Online is in the works, and will be set in the Second Era, hundreds of years prior to any of the Elder Scrolls games.
The source mentioned that the game will include three playable factions represented by a lion, a dragon and a bird of prey. Beyond that, details are scarce, but Zenimax Online Studios have been building an MMO for years. The Elder Scrolls certainly has the depth of lore to support a massively multiplayer world. This could be pretty special. If it's real. Bethesda have issued a "no comment." Would you play an Elder Scrolls MMO?