Elder Scrolls Online – Preview

Special thanks to ZeniMax Studio.

Twitter | Facebook | Google+

I had the pleasure of visiting Bethesda Softwork’s studio (Baltimore, MD) on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 for a special preview showing of their upcoming The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) RPG.  Bethesda was absolutely a wonderful host and I can’t thank them enough for allowing me to represent the Acolytes Gaming Community (my gaming guild).  During the special showing we were given a personal walk through the very early stages of TESO, along with granting us the privilege of playing a pre-alpha build (for just over 3 hours).  I will be sharing my personal experience with you all, detailing the Character Creation Process, revealing TESO’s new Social Interaction System (featuring the Mega-Server Technology), PvP and PvE Gameplay Elements and finally going through the event Q&A session.

The Elder Scrolls Online is a game backed by nearly 20 years of intellectual property, set 1,000 years before the events in Skyrim.   (From the first rendition of the series, The Elder Scrolls: Arena in 1994, to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Hearthfire expansion in 2012.)  TESO’s philosophy is simply to make a great, outstanding Elder Scrolls game, with an engaging social experience and by providing a premium service of regular content updates throughout the life of the product.  Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Mobile support are key elements in delivering the most complete social experience ever experienced in a mmo.

Four key game play elements were the basis behind the initial development of the Elder Scrolls Online.  World Immersion, Strategic and Reactive Combat, Unique Progression, and Modern Social Experience.

1.) World Immersion:  With being an Elder Scrolls game, the story needs to flow together (NPC/Quests) and make sense to the player.  Choices really have to matter in a mmo.  This is the way it helps you to stand out on your own, making your own character unique.

2.) Strategic and Reactive Combat:  The game needs to feel like an Elder Scrolls game, capturing key combat and game-play elements experienced in Oblivion and Skyrim.  TESO will have the same PC Control System for combat as in Oblivion and Skyrim.

3.) Unique Progression:  Ensuring that you are able to build the character the way you desire.  Every class will have access to every single weapon and armor in the game.  You play the way you want to play.

4.) Modern Social Experience: The importance of acknowledging the key social networks that are available outside of the game.  Integration will be key to bringing about the best social experience possible.  (Twitter, Google+, Facebook, along with Mobile Support.)  Along with focusing heavily on Guild Support.

Bringing together both the standard MMO player and devoted Elder Scrolls player will always be a primary goal for the future success of the Elder Scrolls Online.

Character Creation

The Elder Scrolls Online will feature a three faction warfare system, pulling from the past 20 years of the Elder Scroll’s intellectual property.  The factions being represented are the The Ebonheart Pact, The Aldmeri Dominion, and The Daggerfall Covenant.

Each faction will consist of three races from specific regions of Tamriel.

  1. The Ebonheart PactDark ElfNordArgonian
  2. The Aldmeri DominionHigh ElfWood ElfKhajiit
  3. The Daggerfall CovenantBretonRedguardOrc

Races of the Ebonheart Pact:

  1. Dark Elf: Proud but grim and often ruthless, the Dark Elves, known as Dunmer in their homeland of Morrowind, are slow to trust but loyal to their allies.  They are equally adept with blade, spell, or stealth.
  2. Nord: Strong and hardy, the Nords of Skyrim are Nodic humans who are as quick to laugh as they are to fight.  Most Nords prefer simplicity to sophistication, and an axe or an arrow over a spell.
  3. Argonian: A reptilian race of lizard-folk from the dark swamps of Black Marsh, to some the Argonians seem cold and uncanny.  Surviving the dangers of their homeland has made them adept with both weapons and magic.

Tamriel 

In the pre-alpha build that we were given to preview, we were able to play as the Ebonheart Pact (faction), featuring the races of the Dark Elf, Nord, and Argonian.  Two classes were unlocked for us to preview: The Dragon Knight and the Templar.  (I will delve into the beginning class abilities in our PvE area.)

  • Dragon Knight: These skillful masters-at-arms use the ancient Akaviri martial arts tradition of battle spirit, and wield fearsome mason that pounds, shatters and physically alters the world around them.
  • Templar: These traveling knights call upon the powers of light and the burning sun to deal massive damage to their enemies, while restoring health, magicka, and stamina to their allies.
Character Customization:
  • First/Last Name:  During character creation, the player will have the ability to enter both a first and last name for their character (forming an unique server combination).  The naming guidelines:  At least 3 letters long, starts with a letter and ends with a letter.  No more than 2 of the same letter in a row.  One hyphen or apostrophe at most.
  • Body: Type (triangular slider featuring points of Muscular / Large / Thin)
  • Body: Skin Color (various selections)
  • Face: Type (triangular slider featuring points of Heroic / Soft / Angular)
  • Face: Hair Style (slider featuring approximately 11 selections)
  • Age: (sliders)
  • Adornment: (sliders)
  • Eyes: (various selections)
  • Brow: (various selections)
Combat System / User Interface

The Elder Scrolls Online’s combat system is one of similar nature, closely resembling the system used in Tera Online.  TESO strives for a more fast paced, action oriented and realistic feel, drifting away from the standard macro managed ability rotations.  Main character actions are controlled via the Left Mouse button and the one through six numeric keys on your board.  Each class is presented with a blocking ability (Right Mouse button) and a Sprinting ability (Shift).  Players will also have access to a potion/consumable system, which is bound to the R Key.

The player is presented with the standard UI elements / layout.  The chat window is displayed in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, supporting multiple tab windows, including a combat log history.  The window is also fully editable.  In the bottom center portion of the screen is the characters action bar.  The Left | Right Mouse Buttons are for the users primary and blocking abilities.  The numeric keys 1 – 5 are fully editable, allowing the user to insert any of their secondary abilities for use (by selecting the control key to bring up the mouse cursor, then right clicking on the bar area to select the appropriate ability to insert).  The 6th key is reserved for a special ability.  The R key is used for the potion/consumable slot.

Chat Window ……. Left | Right … 1 2 3 4 5 6 (special) .. R (potions) …… Mini-Map

To the right of the action bar is the player’s Mini-Map, which will also display way-points to your current quests objectives.  In the top right hand corner of the UI is the players quest tracker, which will cycle through your quest log by way of the T key.  Your current quests objectives/locations will be tracked on both the players Main and Mini Maps.

 Misc. Information:

  • The E key is used as your primary interaction key, also as the loot all button
  • The Control Key grants access to the In Game Menus.

    Main Menu | Quest Journal | Character | Inventory | Progression | Misc.

  • There is an Achievement System and Lore Library in game.
  • Your player’s inventory is fully searchable and easily organized.
  • The tab key will cycle through your current targets.
  • Quest NPC’s are easily seen by their glowing appearance.
  • Red Glowing Mobs indicated Hostile targets, while Yellow represent neutral.
  • In your Character Equipment screen, armor/weapon stats are easily comparable to determine upgrade viability.
  • The Crafting System is still in the very early stages of development.  It will be used to enhance weapon/armor.  Along with suitable gear for pve and pvp gameplay.
  • Health and Stamina regenerate within 5-10 seconds while out of combat.
  • The action bar will auto hide out of combat.
  • Their is a first person view camera mode in the game.
  • Characters have access to the crouch/sneak ability (C key)
  • Slight XP Bonuses are awarded by how successful you performed in combat.
  • Blocking Strong Attacks will knock down your opponent.
  • You have the ability to charge up your attacks (holding down your Left Mouse Button) for a more powerful blow.
  • You are able to reset mob aggro.
  • Characters have the ability to master any weapon and wear any armor.

Social Interaction System

Introducing the “Mega-Server”.  (One server to rule them all!)

In order to create the best social experience possible for the player, the Elder Scrolls Online was designed from the ground up with one specific server type in mind, the Mega-Server.  A single collective server will power the world of TESO, eliminating the need for multiple shards/realms, eliminating the frustrating queue experience and ghost towns, and allowing the player to easily group up with their friends at any given time.  (There will be one Mega-Server per Geographical Region.  US / Europe)

With the Mega-Server technology, players will have access to joining multiple guilds, while also having the ability to instantly play with their friends at any given time (faction dependent).  The server will feature smart grouping technology.  Over time the system will learn who you would prefer to play with and automatically group you with those individuals who are of similar play-styles.  There will be multiple questionnaires that you will be able to answer to determine your specific grouping criteria (whether you prefer to play alone, group together, meet new people, seek a guild, participate in rp events, select age group, etc.).

Guild features are currently in the early stages of development, but will play a vital role with integrating in social networks (mobile / twitter / facebook / google+ support).  Some suggestions that were discussed were support in/out of the game for Guild Event Calendars, Notification System for Cyrodiil’s activities, and a way to mass communicate with your guild members.  When the Elder Scrolls Online officially launches, the player will easily be able to import their existing friends from their social networks directly to their in game friend list.  Along with forming guild Facebook groups before launch and importing your entire member list instantly at launch.

PvP System

The Elder Scrolls Online will feature large scale, massive player vs player combat in the form of Keep Sieges in the province of Cyrodiil.  Three factions will go to war throughout the land, representing large scale combat of up to 220 combined players in Cyrodiil.  (Multiple campaigns of Cyrodiil will run, pending player demand.)

No specific player faction limit will be implemented, other than reaching the overall zone cap (proposed 220 players).  Communication between the factions will be non-existent.  It appears that Cyrodiil will be the only host of player vs player combat.

Participation will be from level 10 upward through the maximum level of 50.  Players Level 10-49 will see their characters battle-leveled, increasing their maximum hit points to gain a better chance of survival. Unfortunately, their current class abilities will remain in tact, granting the overall advantage still to the higher level players.

Siege weapons will be freely usable by any player inside of Cyrodiil.  There will be multiple ways to enter the keeps, burning down walls and knocking down doors.  The way you break into a keep, will be the way that you will inherit the keep upon success.  Outside of the main Keeps will be smaller objective based pvp locations, allowing for groups of all sizes to have an impact and the solo player.

Guilds will have the ability to claim Keeps and will easily be grouped into the same Cyrodiil Campaign Instance.  (There will be no teleporting to your friends location in Cyrodiil, with Cyrodiil’s unique ruleset.)

With the Mega-Server and Client technology, large scale combat was taken into consideration from day one.  Allowing for the best server stabilization as possible.  In the video that was shown to us, there was fluid game play running on the highest visual settings.  The beautiful scenery is one to rival the environment in Age of Conan.  (System requirements are fairly low to run the game.)

To my knowledge, there will not be character collision in PvP combat.  Zone wide alerts will be implemented to notify you of Cyrodiil’s activities.

At this stage of development, there is no talk of implementing smaller battleground type matches (instances).  While skilled based arena play-style is not completely off the table as an addition after launch.

Cyrodiil

Cyrodiil, also known as the Imperial Province, is a province in the south-central region of Tamriel and the home of a humanoid race known as Imperials. The center of their Empire and seat of governance, Cyrodiil is also known as “the Heartland” and forms the setting for the game  The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’.

PvE System

I had an absolutely fantastic time at Bethesda’s Studio playing through the very early stages of the Elder Scrolls Online.  It was a special treat to witness the beginning story-lines (areas) and seeing the game-play live and firsthand.

I first started out at the Character Creation screen, creating the most repulsive Argonian possible (reptilian race of lizard-folk representing the Ebonheart Pact).  (Please see our Character Creation section for further details.)  Out of the two unlocked classes (Dragon-Knight and Templar) available for demonstration, I elected to give the Templar class a try.

The Templar appears to play as a support class, being provided with light based abilities for restoration of health, magicka, and stamina to grant to their allies.  In the Elder Scrolls Online, all classes will have access to every single weapon and armor (item) in the game.  It is up to the player to decide on how they want to build their character around their own unique play-style.

As you rank up in level, players will receive points to dedicate to increasing/building their weapon proficiency skills, dedicating to increasing their player attributes (health/magicka/stamina) for passive rewards, and abilities.

A few of the Templar’s starting abilities encountered (gained automatically as you advance your player levels) during my early play through:

  • Reckless Attacks – An attack creating massive damage with bonuses awarded based on stamina.
  • Rushed Ceremony – A powerful aoe healing spell.
  • Sun Fire – A snaring attack that deals massive amounts of damage.
  • Sun Strike – A damage ability and healing spell.

The first starting area that I encountered (at level 2) was Bleakrock Island.  The starting area for the Ebonheart Pact (faction) off the northeast coast of Skyrim (offering game-play from level 2-4).  There were beautiful landscapes all around, courtesy of Bethesda’s exceptional art design team.  After level 4, the player ventures onward to Morrowind.

Public Dungeons appear throughout the game, as early as level 5.  With the way the Elder Scrolls Online was designed from the beginning, the development team wanted to make grouping up for encounters/quests as easy as possible for the player.  Generally speaking, any time that you assist/help another player in the game, the game will act like you are physically grouped together in order to receive full credit for the specific activity.  I believe groups will be comprised of 5 players, while raids will be comprised of 25 (from hearing this mentioned during E3 2012).

Continuity with established lore was viewed as a crucial component in the developing of the Elder Scrolls Online’s questing system.  20 years of established lore will go directly into the game, attempting to immerse the player into the story-line and world as much as possible.  Fully voiced character (NPC) dialogues will compose the questing system.

  • Dungeons will be composed of numerous puzzles frequently featured in the Elder Scrolls franchise.
  • There will be a variety of ways to successfully complete tasks/quests.  (“Play the way you want.  A big hallmark of Elder Scrolls games.”)
  • XP Bonuses will be awarded based on how well you performed in combat.  The standard xp system will be used for leveling.
  • Monsters (mobs) will work together extremely well with “Synergy”.  They will utilize abilities that will complement each other.  Players will also have access to Synergy, as well.  (New spells will unlock for players.)
  • Every Monster will have it’s own unique strategy.

 

Event Q&A Session (Condensed)

Question 1
  • Q: Is there a player limit to the size of guilds?
  • A: No size established, as guild features are still in development.
Question 2
  • Q: Will you easily be able to go from playing solo to grouping with your friends?
  • A: You will easily be able to port to your friends, without logging out.
Question 3
  • Q: Will you be able to lead a very large guild community event composing of over 200 guild members into a specific area?
  • A: Undetermined at this time.
Question 4
  • Q: Does the game effect Social Networking?  Will excessive spam be sent to your social networks?
  • A: No.  The intention is not to annoy the player.  Very Conscientious about that.
Question 5
  • Q: Will you get battle leveled when you go to Cyrodiil?
  • A: Yes, you will get battle leveled when you enter Cyrodiil.  Players will receive hp buffs, but will maintain current abilities from prior level.  A level 50 will have many more tools in his arsenal, and is more effective.  Siege weapons are the gateway to PvP, as you can be any level over 10 to do a siege weapon.
Question 6
  • Q: What are the implications of the Megaserver for Cyrodiil?  Is there just one realm war?
  • A: Half of the reason why we came up with the idea of the Mega server was to solve the Day One problem (queue / grouping with friends).  The other half was to solve the I’m on a low population server and pvp is terrible, because there is not enough people to play.  There will be a system that you will be able to sign up for Cyrodiil.  There will be a number of campaigns running at any given time.  You will easily be able to have your friend join your campaign or join theirs.  The proposal right now is to name the Campaign after cities.  Daggerfall Campaign, etc.
Question 7
  • Q: Is there a control mechanism to make sure that the factions don’t become imbalanced in Cyrodiil?
  • A: There will be very high caps.  If one side is overpopulated, the other two sides can combine forces.  The more territories that you own, the harder to defend.  This will give the lower population side a chance to come in to take some territory.  So the system is self-balancing in a way.
Question 8
  • Q: Will there be a size limit for Dungeons and Raids?  Will it have 8 or 10 players?
  •  A: When it’s instanced in a Dungeon itself, there will be limits for a group size, like a regular normal instance.  One of the things that we talked about briefly, and still very much in development, is the idea of “Adventure Zones”.  Where they are zones, like you saw Stonefalls today (starting area), but they have content for a single player, for a group, and tough content that is designed for a much bigger group (raid – that will start at level 50.)   Public Dungeons are no limit (other than a physical limit that can actual go in).  You are able to go in with your friends.
Question 9
  • Q: Has a scaling system been considered?  Is there a way to scale down a dungeon system to compensate for smaller group sizes / levels?
  • A: Scaling systems are interesting, but are really hard to balance and so we would rather put more dungeons in that are of quality content than say something like that.  But at the same time if you are a little above the level of the Dungeon, you are still going to be able to do it and have a great time.  Megaservers will make it so easy to find new friends.
Question 10
  • Q: Can you change your character role in the middle of raids?
  • A: Yes.  As long as you are not in combat, you are able to slot your different abilities the way you want to.  If your healer dies, you are able to run out of combat, change, pick up your healing staff and come back in.
Question 11
  • Q: What limitations will exist on who can be in the same guild (with the three different factions)?
  • A: A guild is associated with an alliance.  If you are of a different faction, you can join the guild, but can not be associated with a Cyrodiil campaign that they are having.  You can be in multiple guilds.
Question 12
  • Q: Will there be guild progressions or activities that you will be able to do with your guild to rank you apart from other guilds?
  • A: We’re thinking about doing it.  We’re not sure when it’s going to be done.
Question 13
  • Q: What is communication like between the factions?
  • A: There is no communication between the factions.
Question 14
  • Q: Will there be a notification system in the game to let you know of Cyrodiil’s activities?
  • A: Yes, there will be a notification system.  If you control certain keeps, you control certain bonuses.  If you lose that you will hear a noise and see that bonus disappear from your buffs and know it’s time to go out and take them back.
Question 15
  • Q: Any player housing system?
  • A: Not for launch.  We’re thinking about it.  There are more crucial areas with priority.
Question 16
  • Q: You mentioned that you are able to jump/port to your friends.  How are you going to prevent this from being abused as a fast travel mechanism?  In Cyrodiil?
  • A: Assuming that you have been to that part of the world already.  You can’t jump to a part of the world you haven’t been to already.  (Still going back and forth.  Maybe it’s just better to be social and allow you to get right together with your friends.)  No jumping to your friends in Cyrodiil (different ruleset).
Question 17
  • Q: Will your Dungeon Rewards take party composition into account?
  • A: Every class will be able to equip every armor/weapon dropped.
Question 18
  • Q: Can you give us any hints on how important crafting will be?
  • A: Crafting components are more predominate in appearing throughout the world than in standard mmo’s, to provide a more Elder Scrolls feel.  You will be able to gather crafting components from towns and cities, as well as in the world.  Crafting will be very impactful, especially in PvP.  You will be able to create new weapons and armor, and just as important the ability to augment the things that you have.
Question 19
  • Q: Are guilds able to claim keeps or villages?
  • A:  Yes, guilds will be able to claim keeps or one of the support structures around the keep.  Resources are available to take over for smaller guilds.
Question 20
  • Q: Can you talk about instanced PvP, other than Cyrodiil?
  • A: Current plans are just to have the open battlefield system in Cyrodiil.  (No plans in development for smaller battlegrounds matches.)  There will be no skill based arena style pvp at launch (under consideration).
Question 21
  • Q: Will there be a mentoring system in the game to allow players to play together at all levels?
  • A: There will be a mentoring system in place, so you will easily be able to pair up with other people.  A level 20 will be able to join with a level 40.
Question 22
  • Q: Can you explain Family Names.
  • A: Had to go to two names, because everyone is now on the same server.  You can’t match first and last name with anyone else.
Question 23
  • Q: Is there a difference in end game between high level pvp items (armor) vs what you are able to obtain in a raid?
  • A: We are trying to make it as equal as possible in that regard.  We don’t want to make it an item grind.  We want to make it so pvers will be able to swap back and forth from pvp to pve.
Question 24
  • Q: Is there going to be anything like Darkness Falls?
  • A: Yes, and more information will be revealed in the future.

About the Acolytes Gaming Community

What began in 2004 as a dream by our Overlord, Redruum (Hieru), has burgeoned into an Empire in MMO gaming. Here we stand, risen from the ashes, Acolytes 2.0. Rise. Fall. Rise Again. That’s our motto. Through the ups and downs of the gaming culture we have survived into our next generation of the online gaming experience.

We have seen Divisions of the Acolytes in Age of Conan, Warhammer, Aion, Mortal Online and Rift. There have been many imitators and detractors along the way, but none have stood the test of time that the Acolytes have proudly displayed.

We look to the future of the Acolytes in Guild Wars 2 and the Elder Scrolls Online. We will bring our tenacity, our never say die attitudes and our undying faith to our Community to every game we touch. Haroo!

Acolytes Give Life. Acolytes Take Life. Acolytes For Life.

For more information regarding the community, register to our forums today and take a look for yourself. Contact one of our Division Leaders or Division Recruitment teams to join today.

For media relations and contact information and the history of the Acolytes, e-mail John “Hieru” S. or Brad “Cach” F. at qqmoar@the-acolytes.net

About ZeniMax Media Inc.

ZeniMax Media is a privately owned media organization headquartered outside Washington DC with international offices in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Eindhoven, and Tokyo. Through its subsidiaries, ZeniMax Media creates and publishes original interactive entertainment content for consoles, the PC, and handheld/wireless devices.  ZeniMax Media divisions include Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, Arkane Studios, Tango Gameworks, MachineGames Sweden, ZeniMax Europe Ltd., ZeniMax Asia K.K. and ZeniMax Online Studios.   For more information on ZeniMax Media, visit www.zenimax.com.

About Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda Softworks, part of the ZeniMax Media Inc. family of companies, is a worldwide publisher of premier interactive entertainment software. Titles featured under the Bethesda label include such blockbuster franchises as DOOM®QUAKE®The Elder Scrolls®, Fallout®, Wolfenstein®  and RAGE®.   For more information on Bethesda Softworks’ products, visit www.bethsoft.com.  

About ZeniMax Online Studios

ZeniMax Online Studios, a division of ZeniMax Media, was established to become a premier developer of online games, with special focus on Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs).  ZeniMax Online Studios is located in Hunt Valley, Maryland. For more information on ZeniMax Online Studios, visit www.zenimaxonline.com.

Sources: http://www.ign.com/wikis/elder-scrolls-online/