We have had a lot of talk about Elder Scrolls Online in the last few weeks. There have been a couple of updates which really ring home about how they are approaching the game. For us at MMORPG.com it is great to see coverage and begin dissecting the content. The size of this game is something to behold and trying to capture all of the Tamriel landscape in one place is tricky. So why don’t we look at what the team is doing to truly bring the world of Elder Scrolls to life?
The main reason I started thinking about this column was the “Ask Us Anything” feature that ZeniMax Online ran for the game. It seemed like a lot of questions that they had answered were focused on what parts of Tamriel will be in the game. Having to flush out three whole factions and nine races overall there is plenty of room for growth. The team does have a lot on their side; they have the dungeons and regions from the past Elder Scrolls games to work with.
One of the things that is very exciting from the Q&A was the mention of Dragon Shrines in the Skyrim region. It is elements like this that will make the game feel very much like Elder Scrolls and not just another MMO. It will be these minor touches that really work the player into the game world. If I am traveling in Skyrim the first thing I want to do is go out and find the Dragon Shrines. Or possibly explore cities like Riften. These places stay with you as a gamer. So having them presented to you in a brand new game should be rewarding. The fact that the team is working heavily with other source materials from other games helps. However the real challenge is the re-delivery of these epic places, and making them feel like they did originally.
This is where the game of Elder Scrolls Online really needs to step up and capture what players come to expect from the world. As Bill mentioned in his “Making it Feel Like TES” article, there's a large need for many Dungeons. This is a major element to the world of Tamriel as we know it. Dungeons in any game are critical, they are the core of RPG ideals. However, bringing to life these dungeons presents a challenge to developers. The ability to get dungeons right in the eyes of the Elder Scrolls lore and then gear them for groups of players is really a hurculean task. Especially when you consider the fact that they will likely be open to anyone and not always instanced. You also have the team adding in the Public Dungeon system which will bring large groups of players to accomplish different goals in a separate zone. PDs are very different from raids or regular instanced dungeons, because anyone can enter them and begin battling monsters or doing quests without a preset group and they're not private to that group.
I definitely think the team has the right skills to bring all of these pieces to life in the online world. The other main areas that need to be flushed out are cities and towns. Normally in MMOs these features are simply used as quest hubs or places to trade items. The cities in Elder Scrolls past have much more than that to offer. With quests and crimes as well as dungeons and backstories, every town is very unique and carries a story of its own. A strong focus needs to be placed on cities to make them more than just an MMO tool. For me in Skyrim, Whiterun and Riften had so much character and vibe it was great to explore. As much as the open world counts for players in TES a lot can be found inside the cities.
This brings me to my last point which is Cyrodiil. As the main PvP, a three faction game with only one massive server, it will be quite a popular place. Even though the focus on Cyrodiil is very much PvP, there still needs to be a pulse and a life to the zone. Too many games make the mistake of creating a PvP zone and then walking away from the content because they figure it is just a place for players to fight: that is the wrong approach. Going out to do quest lines in a PvP zone is tricky with people trying to kill you all the time. I am not just talking about PvP quests, I am specifically talking about PvE quests in a PvP zone. Adding content to this zone which allows players to explore as well as fight could make for some great gameplay. Whatever the formula, we hope to see PvE quests in the game that take place in Cyrodiil because otherwise you'll be left with the deserts (not lakes) that were the RVR zones in Warhammer.
Tamriel is a massive world and even trying to build it into an MMO is daunting. However, if done right, it really could offer players fond old memories with newfound gameplay. That is the secret sauce to building this world. In keeping with Bill's question from last week, what else do you think ESO needs to do TES right?
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