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Matt Firor on Orsinium and the Future of DLC

William Murphy Posted:
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Now a week since going live, we caught up with Zenimax Online’s Matt Firor to chat about the Orsinium DLC pack, the reception it has received, and what the team has planned for the next update. Read on!

MMORPG: Congrats on the latest DLC release! This one seems to have gone over really well with players, giving them a whole new zone to traverse and explore that’s akin to the original game’s leveling content. Was that the intended goal?

Matt Firor: Thank you! Orsinium is the culmination of all our content development experience in ESO. We are very happy with how it came out – it is easily the best story, content, and art/world design we’ve done thus far in the game. Our goal in Orsinium was to give players a true Elder Scrolls story and area to explore – but do it in a way that all players, regardless of level could play and have fun. That’s why we “boosted” all players to the same level inside the zone so that everyone can enjoy it.

MMORPG: In a lot of ways, Orsinium seems to be leading down the path of a new narrative for the game’s overall story. Can we expect more of these types of DLC that focus on the story and questing?

MF: We are always going to try to address different styles of play in our DLC, but given that, yes, our next couple of DLC are going to focus on the essential Elder Scrolls story, narrative, and questing.

MMORPG: The level scaling within Orsinium is a new thing for you all. What made you decide to go this route with Orsinium?

MF: We are concentrating very hard on addressing a number of areas in the game, one of which is reducing the game’s focus on level-based zones so that players can play with one another more easily. One of the biggest reasons why players can’t group with one another is because of the game’s level-based zones which restricts players from having a meaningful play experience if they are in a zone not designed for their level. A few updates ago we removed the level requirement for dungeons, which was hugely popular, and now we are extending that concept to overland zones as well, via DLC. Orsinium has shown so far that we can make a really fun zone that everyone can play, regardless of their level. Expect to see a lot more of this type of design in future DLCs, as letting people play together is the most fun part of the game, and we want to make sure that happens.

MMORPG: Do you see scaling as the sort of future of your open world content? Maybe except when it comes to Cyrodiil?

MF: We’re looking very closely at how players react to this concept in Orsinium, and will definitely continue the concept with Thieves Guild – but after that we’ll have to see. Stay tuned!

MMORPG: How have people taken to the open world bosses and stuff like that? Seems like it was a popular requested addition for Orsinium.

MF: A surprisingly well received part of Orsinium so far has been the mix of content that we have in the zone. The quests can be done solo, but there are super-difficult moments scattered throughout Wrothgar that require grouping – 2 public dungeons and the world bosses that you occasionally run across. This mix of content is hitting the right notes – you can group if you want, but you don’t have to unless you run across something you can’t do by yourself. One of the really important parts of any social RPG is to make sure that everyone can have fun in a particular DLC or zone, and this mix of story and group moments in the Orsinium DLC gets it pretty close to exactly correct. Plus, having group and solo-able content side by side means that solo-minded players will organically run across the group content, see other players doing it, and will make new friends and future guildmates by pitching in and helping.

MMORPG: Are there still lots of areas in the world of Tamriel we haven’t visited?  Where might we be headed next?

MF: Yes, Tamriel is a huge continent, and while we have a lot of it covered so far, there’s still plenty to explore in future DLC. We’ve already publically talked about the next two DLCs: Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood. Thieves Guild takes place in a part of Hammerfell that you haven’t yet seen in ESO, and Dark Brotherhood will be set in the area around Anvil and Kvatch in western Cyrodiil (which is not part of the PvP Cyrodiil). After that, you’ll have to stay tuned!

MMORPG: Do you think ZOS will ever do a typical sort of “expansion” with multiple zones and new features?

MF: Never say never, but we really like our quarterly DLC cadence, which lets us slip in both new content and quality of life fixes and updates and get them to customers much faster than waiting for an annual expansion.

MMORPG: It seems the past two DLCS came out very quickly in succession. Is this the sort of pace you’re hoping to keep? 2 months, or so?

MF: Think of it more as “quarterly” – Imperial City was the 3rd quarter DLC and Orsinium is the 4th quarter DLC. We don’t yet have a launch date for Thieves Guild, but it’ll be 1st quarter next year, with Dark Brotherhood following up sometime in the 2nd quarter, and so on. This gives us some flexibility in our development timelines, and gives customers a good idea of when to expect cool new stuff.

MMORPG:  Last one for now… what’s next? J

MF: Ha! I think I’ve outlined a lot of good stuff that’s coming soon – but we are also looking back on what we have accomplished in 2015 with a lot of satisfaction. It’s really hard to comprehend this, but in the calendar year 2015, we have accomplished:

  • Launching the massive Update 6 (Justice System, combat animation upgrades, etc.)
  • Removal of required subscription, addition of Crowns and Crown Store, and relaunch as Tamriel Unlimited
  • Console Beta weekend
  • Launch on Xbox 1 and Playstation 4
  • Imperial City DLC
  • Orsinium DLC

I get tired (and really happy) just looking at the list. That’s a huge amount for any game to accomplish, especially in a year (and it is only November!). Above all else this shows our commitment to the game. We are definitely going to work very hard to keep ESO awesome for a long, long time.


William Murphy

Bill is the former 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.