E3 has come and gone, but not without some big news from Zenimax, Bethesda, and Elder Scrolls Online. We caught up with ESO’s Game Director Matt Firor to discuss the news out of E3, the next big update “Shadows of the Hist”, and what the future may hold for Tamriel.
MMORPG: Hey Matt! First, a big congrats on the 7 million players announcement. That’s absolutely huge. Can you give any insight to the breakdown on platform?
MF: Thanks! The fact that 7 million players have explored Tamriel is really gratifying for our entire team, and we know we wouldn’t be here without the support of our community. We’ve taken a lot of feedback from our players since launch and have worked really hard to improve the game and deliver on the features they asked for. As a result, the game has continued to get better and better, both for new players and for the community that has been here from the beginning.
We have very healthy communities on all platforms, although I’m not going into the breakdown specifically. Suffice it to say, if you are on any of the different platforms, you will see a lot of players.
MMORPG: Which platform seems to play the most ESO?
MF: That’s a very interesting question. We, and really the entire industry, had assumed going into console launch that PC players were more hardcore than console gamers – but we quickly found out that there are just ESO gamers. They all basically play the same amount, some hardcore, some more casually, and it doesn’t really matter what platform they are on.
MMORPG: How has the retention been on ESO plus? Are most people subscribing to get DLC, or buying it outright? The Crown Store performance?
MF: We see periodic downs and ups in ESO Plus, mostly centered around DLC launches, but we have a stable, healthy base of subscribers. The Crown Store is doing very well – our philosophy of selling cosmetic and fun (and some utility) items is very popular with our players, because you cannot buy a significant advantage in-game by using the Crown Store.
MMORPG: Explain why you all decided to go the route of One Tamriel? How long in planning has this been?
MF: After PC launch, we sat down as a group and made a list of the feedback we were getting about the game. Most of the comments we got from the community (and the dev team) was that the game was too segmented and too “narrow” – many ESO players wanted more options, more open ended systems, and more sense of choice. We already had a really good quest system with top-notch dialog, and a great PvP setup in Cyrodiil, so we didn’t change those at all, but concentrated on adding features that make those core game systems more fun. If you look at the features we added since PC launch, you’ll see a running theme: the Champion System, Justice System, veteran dungeons, Trials, removing Veteran ranks, armor dyeing, open ended thieving and assassination quests – all of these make the game broader and give players other things to concentrate on than just questing and leveling.
And of course, One Tamriel is the last large system left on that list. We have been steadily building towards it, with all of our DLC being level-balanced, and now is the perfect time to level-balance the entire game world.
MMORPG: What exactly is the point of leveling now, from 1-50? Do you plan to remove those at some point?
MF: Having a graduation moment at level 50 is an important milestone in a character’s life, so the first 50 levels definitely add a sense of progression and enables the player to make their character broader and more powerful (and dabble in things like crafting) by earning skill points. Also, the differentiation between Pre-Veteran and Veteran levels is important, as Veteran levels open up the second, more difficult layers of dungeons and Trials.
MMORPG: You hinted at quite a few things… the first being the Argonian Dungeons. You can toss something out there like that and not elaborate at least a little bit.
MF: We just announced that! Yes, our next Update will have an Argonian Dungeon pack DLC called “Shadows of the Hist” that consists of two dungeons, with normal and veteran modes. You’ll get some fun and interesting Argonian lore in between fun dungeon diving.
MMORPG: You also mentioned that more ways to customize characters would be coming. Will this be more along the lines of Player Personalities, or something even deeper?
MF: Yes, the next update, coming in August, also has a character customization system that enables you to change – for the first time – your character’s hair, tattoos, body size, name, race, and gender (among others). We will also add a costume dyeing system in that same Update. We are thinking of more personalities to add; we definitely want to do this in the future.
MMORPG: I have to ask… can you give us any details on housing? Will it just be a glorified place to show off trophies? Will you be able to see a neighborhood or city of houses, or will it be instanced? Will we finally get farms to make our own provisioning goods?
MF: We’ll release a lot more info on Housing in ESO closer to the end of year. For now, we’re concentrating on our August update and One Tamriel. It’s going to fun, though!