At QuakeCon this weekend I got to see a demo of the upcoming Murkmire expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online coming later this year. The demo was led by creative director Rich Lambert, who gave us a brief tour of Lilmoth, the main trade hub of Murkmire, and led us to a dungeon in a quest to acquire lost Argonian artifacts.
This dungeon quest is undertaken on behalf of the Cyrodiilic Collections Agency—which sounds either like a tax office or a loansharking operation, but is in reality a museum intended to preserve Argonian culture and history. The local Argonians don't seem to care much about preserving their culture, but there are outsiders keen on pillaging Argonian artifacts for profit. The last party sent out by the museum's curator never came back—not a good sign.
After tracking the missing treasure hunters to a dungeon, a trap caves in the floor, dropping the investigators deep into the cavern below. The player will have to find their way back to the surface through a labyrinth filled with traps, puzzles, and deadly plant life.
Lambert says the puzzles, such as one we see where a drawbridge needs to be raised by moving carved symbols to their correct locations, won't be overly challenging. "We don't want them to be so hard [players] have to go look for the solution online," he says. "We want you to be able to figure them out either through brute force or by paying attention to your surroundings."
These dungeon traps aren't there just to give the players a hard time, either. If you learn how some of the traps work, they can come in handy later. After surviving a trap where areas of the floor we're standing on are bombarded by firebombs, a boss appears: a blobby yet extremely tough monster called a Voriplasm. The Voriplasm attacks the player in a chamber containing the same sort of firebomb trap, which allows the player to lure the boss into taking damage from the bombardment if he proves too tough to take on without help.
The Murkmire expansion isn't as hefty as Summerset, but "It is equivalent to Clockwork City in terms of DLC size," says Lambert. "It's a story DLC, it's about fifteen to twenty hours of new story content, there's dailies, there's two bosses, there's a new dungeon that's coming along with it as well."
After over a dozen updates to Elder Scrolls Online, I ask Lambert which gets fans more excited, to see the recreation of an area well-known in previous Elder Scrolls games, or to visit regions that haven't been fully realized in a game before.
"I think a bit of both," says Lambert. "Morrowind was: you're coming home. And everybody that was an Elder Scrolls fan knew what Morrowind was and knew what to expect, and so they were really hyped and excited to go and explore kind of a less-destroyed version of Vvardenfell.
"And then with Summerset, which was the opposite, was the 'nobody really knows anything about Summerset, this is going to be our chance to go in and explore and see that'. I guess that's a long-winded way of saying 'it depends' but we've seen great responses for both. As a developer, it's always exciting to be able to go in and kind of forge your own path."