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Interviews: Brian Wheeler on PvP Changes & Additions in The Dark Brotherhood

By William Murphy on May 05, 2016

Brian Wheeler on PvP Changes & Additions in The Dark Brotherhood

This week, we're proud to be starting a new series on Zenimax Online's Elder Scrolls Online called "Inside ESO". Every week or two, we'll be bringing you exclusive looks at the life behind the scenes in Tamriel. Sometimes it'll be an interview, sometimes it'll be a new build for a specific class, or something unique like a look at how lore is handled in creating new content. This week, it's all about the upcoming Dark Brotherhood DLC and its PVP changes.

The Dark Brotherhood may be chiefly about assassinations and doing bad things in the shadows, but that doesn't mean the next DLC for Elder Scrolls Online is only about murder... well, unsanctioned murder. The Imperial City itself is getting some spiffy new additions and changes in the Dark Brotherhood and we spoke with PVP Lead Brian Wheeler about what's to come.


MMORPG: Hey Brian! Thanks for taking time to chat with us. Can you start by shedding some light on the upcoming changes or additions to PVP in ESO?

Brian Wheeler: It is my pleasure. First, in the upcoming Dark Brotherhood DLC patch we’re adding XP rewards to Cyrodiil keeps that grow depending on how much combat occurs at the keep. This is much like the Alliance Point functionality for defending or capturing. We are also adding District Captures to Imperial City—you can try this out on the PTS now! Also in the Dark Brotherhood patch, we’ve added some client-side fixes to address frame rate drops in large battles as well as some back-end server work to address server performance.

MMORPG: Can you shed some light on how the Imperial City District Capture system is going to work in the Dark Brotherhood?

BW: Basically, each District will have a capture flag much like resources around keeps. These flags will be lightly guarded so small groups of any level or solo high-level players can capture them. When you own a District, you can respawn in that District from a PVP or PVE death. If you don’t own any Districts and die, you’ll be respawning in the Sewers.  Also, owning a District confers a 33% bonus per District to all Tel Var Stone gains in the Imperial City (but not the Sewers.) This means if you own all 6 Imperial City Districts, you’ll get almost a 200% bonus to your Tel Var Stone gains!  

MMORPG: What role do you see this sort of change playing in the overall IC campaign system?

BW: Adding Districts that can be captured, as well as making the monsters in the entire Imperial City DLC easier to kill helps reinforce our desired play-style for the zone which focuses more on run-and-gun tactics and faster paced combat situations. This is a different feel than Cyrodiil which is larger-scaled in the sheer size of the zone, versus Imperial City offering a smaller, faster combat pace. This also gives some more depth and meaning to the Districts as opposed to simply being backdrops for quests. Now they’re more PVP oriented—you can literally boot players out of the District(s) by capturing it and killing the opposition.

MMORPG: What changes do you think will help smaller groups compete in the overall PVP system of ESO? 

BW: In the Dark Brotherhood update, Imperial City as a whole has been tuned for smaller groups and solo players. We’ve significantly changed the sweepers to be tailored for a good group of 4 players as opposed to their prior balance point of 12 players or more. This, along with the basepop changes and Tel Var bonuses from capturing Districts, will make the Imperial City Districts more appealing for small groups and solo players.

MMORPG: You come from the Dark Age of Camelot team - is there anything you learned from those days that's helped you in designing Cyrodiil in ESO?  

BW: There were several cues we took from DAOC regarding layout of the entire zone and allowing space between the keeps. Without that space between keeps, the fights would be endless and there isn’t a sense of winning and rebuilding your keep. We also looked at giving small-scale objectives to go with the larger-group objectives, providing lots of activities for all types of players.

MMORPG: What do you think can be done to keep PVP in ESO fresh over the next several years? The Imperial City no doubt added - so where do you think it goes from here?

BW: Obviously we are committed to keep working on client and server performance and getting Cyrodiil running as optimally as possible. In the Dark Brotherhood update, we’re taking some good steps towards that, and we’ll keep at it until all the performance issues are addressed. In addition to optimizations, we are constantly nailing down exploits and abilities that bypass systems and structures, so we’re always on the lookout to make sure Cyrodiil is a fair play environment. 

Also, we want to give Cyrodiil some new toys so we’re looking into adding an entirely new siege weapon that is Dwemer-based with some magical influences. Coming up this year, we’re going to add captureable towns into Cyrodiil, and look to expand on that more along with giving keeps and resources more upgrades. We will keep revisiting the gear you can get with Tel Var Stones and Alliance Points, and continue rotating in sets from all over the game to keep itemization fresh for PVP’ers and PVE’ers visiting Cyrodiil.

MMORPG: Thanks for your time, Brian! Do you have any final words or teases for fans of ESO's PVP game?

BW: Cyrodiil, Imperial City and the Sewers have a lot of PVP options for players, both large-scale and small-scale, but that doesn’t mean we are done. We want to give small-scale PVP its due, and we have plans for a dueling system that we’ll get in at some point — and of course long term we will be adding battlegrounds.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.