Elder Scrolls Online's Horns of the Reach DLC is out already on PC, and launches today for XBOX and PS4. To celebrate, we caught up with Zenimax's own Rich Lambert (Creative Director) to chat about the latest DLC and the new dungeons.
MMORPG: This is the first Dungeon Pack since Morrowind released, and the first since the only other one last year. What’d your team learn from those dungeons that they brought to this release?
Rich Lamert: Our focus for the Horns of the Reach dungeons was to improve pacing, tweaking the mix of basepop vs boss fights, show boss mechanics sooner so that players can better understand the fights, and then push towards mechanically sound fights vs. straight up DPS tests. We want players to be able to feel like as long as they understand the mechanics, they have the ability to defeat the bosses.
MMORPG: Can you give us some lore background on the two new dungeons? What’s the motivation for us being there?
RL: Much like the Shadow of the Hist dungeons, the two new dungeons with Horns of the Reach are thematically linked. Together they tell a story about a group of Reachmen, working together with a Minotaur Clan, to wreak havoc up and down the Jerall Mountians. You and your party are called in to stop the marauding clans and ultimately stop them from unleashing something that shouldn’t ever be released. You don’t have to play them in any particular order to understand the storylines as they complement each other.
MMORPG: How do you feel about releasing dungeons for ESO Plus and as DLC, knowing that some folks think they should be included in regular content updates?
RL: We look at it from the point of view that we are adding to the value of ESO Plus with every DLC we add. ESO+ is not a requirement for players, so we want to keep it an attractive option. We understand that some people don’t like that approach, but we are a business and do have to continue to run it as one.
MMORPG: Are there any hints at future stories in these dungeons, or are they mostly self contained?
RL: We try to keep our dungeon stories mostly self-contained or tangentially related to the goings on of the area they are located in. It’s pretty frustrating as a player to start down a story arc solo and then suddenly have the rest of the story be locked behind group content.
MMORPG: Shadows of the Hist’s dungeons were widely considered the hardest in the game, still are for some. How do these stack up?
Our aim for the dungeons in Horns of the Reach was to make Veteran difficulty a bit more accessible for players, so a bit easier than Shadows of the Hist. That being said, the gloves come off for the hard mode bosses - they are very hard for most players.
MMORPG: Are there any things you’d want to do in these dungeons that you just couldn’t, due to whatever reason?
RL: We always experiment with mechanics and iterate on boss designs over the course of developing a dungeon - some of them stick, others don’t. A good example of this is in Bloodroot Forge, specifically with the rock platforms you see all throughout the zone (the ones in the lava). Initially, the team wanted to have these platforms be smaller and disintegrate almost instantly once you landed on them. The idea was to have a bit of a jumping mini-game here where players had to jump about to stay out of the lava on the various fights. In playtesting, what we found was some people had trouble successfully doing the jumps and spent more time dying in the lava than jumping… it was frustrating for them. We also found that those who could do the jumps spent more time trolling their group members and actively jumping on the rocks to break them all and kill their group mates. It was pretty fun for those doing it, but enraging to those who couldn’t. As such, we made some changes to the platforms to make them a little larger and take longer to break apart. It still keeps the feel of the initial design, while being much more player friendly.
MMORPG: Ok, easy one - favorite new boss encounter?
RL: If I have to pick just one, I’d say my favorite would have to be Galchobhar. It was the one fight out of all the dungeons that I was most worried about in our initial design reviews because of all its mechanics and a jumping requirement. The team iterated on the encounter a lot, tweaked and adjusted mechanics and basepop to make it easier for the players to understand and learn. It turned out into a fantastic encounter and one I love playing over and over.