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Elder Scrolls Online Interviews: Paul Sage Talks Beta, Crafting, and Progression

By William Murphy on January 22, 2013

Today's marks a momentous milestone for any burgeoning game. The day beta signups begin is like heralding to the world that you're almost ready to let the public get its mitts on your product. In the MMO world, beta means players will get an early look at an upcoming title and take part in shaping its experience leading up to launch. The Elder Scrolls Online announced its beta signups today, and as thousands of fans swarm the official site to get enlisted, we had the chance to catch up with Creative Director Paul Sage. Paul dished out some details on the beta process, the progression model for characters, guild importance, and even shared some never-before revealed info on crafting in TESO.  Read on for the run-down, and watch the video embedded here in case you missed the live broadcast.

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First up, Paul talked about how thousands of players are already signing up for the beta.  He also mentioned that just how exciting it is to be able to finally hit this milestone and inch closer towards getting the game in the players' hands. But in terms of the actual beta process, that's when the work comes in.  Paul said the beta will be a small group of the most dedicated testers at first. The goal is to really take everything they feel they've identified about the game, and to see how the player's react to it.  "Does it stick" with players, and is there that same captivation to come back again and again and for players to want to be a part of that world.  It'll start of small, and then go into the larger more wide-in-scope testing that will really be the "does it keep people plugged in" sort of testing. But the part he's really intrigued to see people dive into is the Alliance War PVP experience in Cyrodiil. 

On a side note, Paul said they're also very much testing the Mac version of TESO, but that we'd have to ask the Tech guys at Zenimax as to when that beta would be coming down the pipe.

On the idea of a "Guild Beta", Paul said there won't be a beta period that focuses just on guilds alone. Rather, guilds will be invited with everyone else and there will likely be times when they want people to test the different guild systems, such as joining and creating multiple guilds, and of course their effects on AvA (Alliance War) systems. 

We then chatted about the combat and how it's coming along. Since E3 the team's been working on making combat much more "Elder Scrollsy" in that left click controls your attacks while right click will block.  Then there is a singular hotbar that controls special skills, but no more than that. The team doesn't want the UI to prevail the entire game's action. Now the team's working on balance, mob AI, and the sort of synergies between skills that that mobs and player's can use to gang up on each other. A player can lay down an oil slick for instance, and then a magic-user could light that oil on fire. The mobs can do this too, but now the team is making sure these synergies are as varied as they realistically can be so that combat throughout the game is exciting and reactive.

 

We then chatted a bit about the progression model for the game, and Paul said that even since we visited the studio in October a lot has changed. They're really focused on making sure that every single player can build the character of their dreams, and that even when one hits the level cap of 50, you're still only about 1/3 of the way towards fully developing your character. Once at the cap, the game becomes about broadening your horizons and lateral progression: making your character as diverse and capable of handling all comers and any situation.  Achievers and will love this game, according to Paul. 

In terms of Guilds, Paul told us that the goal is to make sure they're as connected as possible, and that they give players a place of belonging in the world. That you'll want to serve for your guild, represent them, and help them in the Alliance War effort in Cyrodiil, even if you're not a PVP fan typically. You'll be able to join multiple guilds, but without giving to many details, Paul assured us that there will be functions in place to make this a fairly inclusive feature, not exclusive (sacrificing one guild for the other, etc.). When I asked him if players from different Alliances (factions) in TESO would be able to join the same guild, he said that it was a good question and to wait and see... interesting, no?

Finally we turned the discussion to crafting. First and foremost, Paul wanted to make sure we all know that crafting will be vitally important not only to the economy, but to the players as a whole. The gear you get from crafting will be just as viable as that which you get from questing, dungeons, and the like.  In fact, Paul suggested that the players who are decked out the most will be those who partake in all facets of the game.  They want people to be able to play the game how they like, and if that means crafting is their main way to get items, then so be it.  If they don't care about crafting, that's fine too.  But nevertheless, crafting is going to be a very vibrant and detailed part of the game's overarching economy and it won't be the same-ol' same-ol' crafting we've grown used to in recent MMO offerings.  But the key part is that crafters will need adventurers to get the stuff they need, or a crafter can try and get it themselves from different parts of the world. It's an interdependency that means the players will need to work together on some level.

Paul ended by saying that the small group beta will begin very soon, and you'll likely hear about it from proud forum posts of "I'm in the TESO beta, and that's all I can say because of the NDA." In closing, Paul thanked everyone for watching and said that when you do get into the beta, to be as upfront and honest as you can with your critiques and concerns, because they want to make the absolute best game they possibly can and they can't do it without the help of the testers.

What do you think of all we know of TESO so far? Are you signed up? Or are you waiting to see what the game has to offer?

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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