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Elder Scrolls Online Interviews: Brian Wheeler Talks PvP and 'Darkness Falls'

By Michael Bitton on February 18, 2014

MMORPG: Let’s start with a sort of broad question: What were your team’s goals when designing Alliance War for The Elder Scrolls Online? And how do you feel ESO sets itself apart from other games that have aspired to do large scale MMO warfare?

Brian Wheeler: When Matt Firor, basically, hired me on, he said, just real simple, “Make kick ass PvP.” I was like, “OK. That seems like a nice goal to start with.” But obviously, I knew he was trying to go for a good three faction territory control system, but taking it up a notch from what we’ve seen in other three faction games.

One of the big things for that was not only getting the people who love PvP across the board in, but also the people who may be a little bit scared of it to try and hop into it at first. I think that we’ve done a really good job at easing people into it that are a little bit worried about it, but giving something meaty to chew on for the people who really love PvP.

And the tactics that you would force out there in Cyrodiil, I’m still seeing new stuff that I was hoping players were going to do for the longest time, and just seeing the development over the course of the betas, all those people learning how to assault keeps and resources. I think it’s panned out really well and I think it’s going to have a lot of depth out there of people just doing new things all the time out there, whether you’re an old school veteran or somebody new to it.

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MMORPG: Yeah. We have a keep siege video up and I didn’t even know you could blow up the postern doors.

Brian Wheeler: Yeah, that was definitely one of the newer things. After we got the walls destroyable and the doors destroyable, we started looking at well, what can we do to push it? What else could we, for lack of a better way to put it, blow up? Because everybody likes blowing up things. One of the things we saw a lot in testing and in a lot of PvP games is that one bottleneck can be a real pain in the ass, so I wanted to sort of give a pressure valve by letting attackers get inside the inner keep from other positions.

MMORPG: ESO’s skill system offers players a ton of options in designing their characters, but as a result, I can see it being a bit of a balance nightmare for PvP. What’s your team’s philosophy and approach on balance in AvA? Can you also talk about melee in AvA? Traditionally, melee classes have a harder time here.

Brian Wheeler: Yeah, one of the good things about the skill system is that a lot of it is shared across the board between all the classes. So, what you get in that is sort of a closer true PvP system as opposed to, well, this class has this and this class has that and there’s no possible competing against it. And that’s the great thing about the armor abilities, the weapon abilities, and all the guild abilities, too.

In terms of just straight up melee feasibility, there’s a lot of gap closers that are out there. I mean, if you played Dragon Knight, you see them do the chain pull. That’s one of those wonderful things about being a melee person, but also, one of the fun things about being melee in the siege, is while you’re operating those weapons, all those other players need to do is just come out there and interact with your siege weaponry and light it on fire. So, one of the good roles for melee players is actually to defend siege weaponry of the people using them and also defending the guys on the rams. Also, going back to the skill system, since everybody can use any weapon, just because you have, you know, two-hander, you’ve been doing two-handed weaponry, or dual wield or sword and board, that’s not stopping you from grabbing a bow or destruction or healing staff and going out there and helping your fellow fighters.

While it may seem limiting, once you start to open your eyes to the possibilities of, well, I don’t have to just melee, I can do these other things, as well as protect people on the rams, or protect people using the trebs or catapults or ballistae, it really starts to not feel like you’re being pigeonholed.

MMORPG: Can you talk about PvP gear? Specifically, what distinguishes PvE gear from PvP gear? Is there a PvP stat?

Brian Wheeler: There’s no specific stat or anything along those lines. Any of the gear you get, independent of wherever you get it, is perfectly usable in PvP or PvE. The difference will be that some of the armor sets will have different passive abilities in PvE vs. PvP, but there’s nothing that’s really favoring one stat or anything like that, that you have to get for being a “good PvPer”.

MMORPG: I realize you guys want to keep werewolves and vampires under wraps so players have to discover more about them, but if you could maybe speak in broad terms on your thoughts as far as whether these two paths will be viable for PvP.

Brian Wheeler: They’re out there and I’ve fought them; they’re mean. I don’t want to give away too much, obviously, like you said, but when you come across a vampire or a werewolf, you’ll know it, and you’ll be like, “Oh! I need to become a vampire or werewolf as well!”

It’s not overpowering by like having an “I Win” button or anything like that, but you definitely get a different suite of abilities, and you’ll actually be able to recognize that they’ve taken the time to unlock that progression and that’s one more tool in their toolbox that you want to get to counter them from their toolbox as well. It is a lot of fun encountering those guys; it makes you want to keep playing the game more and more to unlock those abilities.

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