Creative staff discuss the story setting

Right now, this pretty much qualifies as concept art.

MMOs in an existing franchise always present certain issues: You need enough conceptual space to advance a game’s storyline, but you may not want to be locked in to never doing another title in the franchise. So The Elder Scrolls Online has to be set in just the right time period for the game to work. In a recent video interview, creative director Paul Sage and content designer Rich Lambert sat down to talk about the why behind the when.

Sage and Lambert explain that the real draw to this particular time period was the fact that there’s neither a great deal of recorded in-game history nor a lot of huge events that might affect future titles — it’s a time when almost anything can happen without derailing future events in the universe. The duo also discusses keeping the game aligned with existing lore and ensuring that nothing gets thrown off by mistake. Those looking forward to the game will want to watch the full interview, which goes into more details regarding specifics of lore and setting.

I am encouraged about this game. I do wish they’d head in a more SPRPG/CO-OP RPG direction, though, as I think that would suit this IP better. That’s essentially what SWTOR is, and it works pretty well at that level. Developers love the “MMO” label because they believe “MMO = more money”. But really most of these games are — in terms of how they are actually played — online SP/CO-OP RPG games. Why not just build the game with that in mind from the get-go? Maybe these guys will do that. If so, then I don’t care what label they give it.

Start an alt in the WoW or LotRO “MMOs” these days, and I guarantee that you’ll be playing 90-95% solo and maybe another 5-10% (if that!) doing small group/co-op content in 5-man dungeons, and precious little time at all in any sort of “massively multiplayer”-type activity (raids and whatnot). Only a scant fraction of players ever get the satisfaction of facing the endboss(es) in games like WoW because Deathwing and Co. are invariably located at the end of long, tedious, raid-dependent gear grinds that most players never complete.

Having a game like TESO with a central storyline that I can actually complete on my own sounds pretty good to me. I’m all for group content, I enjoy it very much; but I think these guys are on the right track in terms of game design philosophy. Group-intensive content should be abundant and fun in games like this but such content should also be “a la carte”, imo, and not the main course.


The Elder Scrolls Online previews characters, more in new trailers [Update]

The Elder Scrolls Online -- Character teaser trailer screencap

We’re expecting big things out of The Elder Scrolls Online during this year’s E3, and to kick things off, Bethesda and ZeniMax have unveiled a new teaser trailer that shows off a small sampling of the characters players can look forward to taking control of when they get their hands on the game. While it’s not exactly gameplay footage, perhaps the new video will assuage fans who are uncertain about the game’s art direction. That, or it will enrage them further.

At any rate, the sample characters run the gamut of what you would expect from The Elder Scrolls: big bearded dude with an axe, sultry elven spellcaster, cloaked assassin — you get the idea. The video’s short and doesn’t serve as much except for eye-candy, but if you’re voracious for new TESO tidbits, it’s definitely worth a look. Just head past the cut for the full trailer, and be sure to check back later this week for a chat with the folks behind the upcoming title.

[Update: We’ve also added another video, this one an interview of TESO’s game director discussing and showing off the game, and the official site has updated with a new look and FAQ. Thanks to Paul for the tips!]


The Elder Scrolls Online’s gameplay and mechanics video


Can’t get enough coverage of The Elder Scrolls Online? Did yesterday’s hands-on and interview with Paul Sage leave you craving more? We’ve got you covered with some in-game video footage and a dash of extra details — narrated by me! — from my recent trip to ZeniMax Online Studios.

Learn about the design philosophy behind ESO as well as some details about synergies, finesse, and character progression. There are also tiny bits of information regarding mounts and vampire skills. Is your curiosity sufficiently piqued? Let me tell you all about it after the break!


Elder ScrollsV Gameplay


The nonlinear gameplay traditional in The Elder Scrolls series is incorporated in Skyrim.[3] The game may be played from a first-person perspective, viewing the game world through the eyes of their character, or from a third-person perspective, with the player character visible on the screen, and the camera able to be freely rotated. The player can explore the open world of Skyrim on foot or on horse, and fast-travel to cities, towns, and dungeons after they have been discovered.[4] Quests are given to the player by non-player characters (NPCs) in the world, and through the Radiant Story system, the quests can be dynamically altered to accommodate for player actions which may influence the quests, characters, and objectives. The Radiant Story then further directs the player’s interaction with the world by setting unexplored dungeons as quest locations.[5] When not completing quests, the player can interact with NPCs through conversation, and they may request favors or offer the player training in skills.[6] In addition to scripted quests certain ones will be dynamically generated, providing a limitless number to the player.[7] Some NPCs can become companions to the player to aid in combat.[8] The player may choose to join factions, which are organized groups of NPCs such as the Dark Brotherhood, a band of assassins.[9] Each of the factions has a headquarters, and they have their own quest paths which the player can progress through. The economy of cities and towns can be stimulated by completing jobs such as farming and mining, or spending large amounts of gold in the stores. Alternatively, the economy may be harmed by forging business ledgers and robbing the safes of stores.[10] Additionally, the player’s actions or statements often have an impact on their interactions with NPCs – such as taking sides in the Civil War or fighting dragons. When exploring the game world, the player may encounter wildlife. Many creatures in the wilderness are immediately hostile towards the player.[3] The inclusion of Dragons in Skyrim affords a major influence on both story and gameplay.

Character development

Character development is a primary element of Skyrim. At the beginning of the game, the player selects one of several human, elven, or anthropomorphic cat and lizard races, each of which has different natural abilities, and customizes their character’s appearance.[11] A perpetual objective for the player is to improve their character’s skills, which are numerical representations of their ability in certain areas. There are eighteen skills divided evenly between the three schools of combat, magic and stealth. Training skills until the necessary required experience is met results in the player’s character leveling-up. Previous The Elder Scrolls games made use of a class system to determine which skills would contribute to the character’s leveling, but its removal in Skyrim allows for a preferred play-style to be developed naturally.[5][12] When their character levels, the player may choose to select a skill-specific ability called a perk, or store perks for later use. Upon levelling fifty times, the player character can continue to level and earn perks, but the rate of levelling is slowed significantly.[13] Skills can be reset over and over again, effectively meaning there is no level cap.[14]


During the game’s development, a team was set aside to work on Dragons and their interactions with the world.[5] In the world, a variety of different Dragons are encountered either alone or in small groups. They are randomly-generated, meaning their numbers are infinite, and they can attack cities and towns at any time.[15] Not every Dragon is hostile, and the player can interact with non-hostile Dragons. Early in the main quest it is discovered that the player character is Dragonborn, which allows the player to absorb the souls of dragons in order to use powerful spells called Dragon Shouts or “Thu’um”. Each Shout contains three words, and the strength of the Shout will vary depending on how many words have been spoken. Twenty different Thu’um can be discovered by visiting “Word Walls” in dungeons with an additional seven shouts available for discovery through the Dawnguard and Dragonborn DLC packages. The shouts are unlocked for use by spending the absorbed souls of slain Dragons.[16][17] A regeneration period limits the player’s use of Shouts in gameplay.[18]


A heads-up display appears when any of the player’s three main attributes are being depleted. Health is depleted primarily by damage through combat and although it is regenerated naturally over time, it can also be restored by spells, potions, or resting; the loss of all health results in death. Magicka is depleted by the use of spells and by being struck by lightning-based attacks, while stamina determines the player’s effectiveness in combat and is depleted by sprinting, power attacking, and being struck by frost-based attacks; both magicka and stamina can be regenerated in similar ways to health. The player’s inventory can be accessed from the menu and items can be viewed in 3D, which can be essential in solving puzzles found in dungeons.[19] The player’s effectiveness in combat relies on the use of weapons and armor, which may be bought or created at forges, and magic, which may also be bought or unlocked. Weapons and magic are assigned to each hand, allowing for dual-wielding, and can be swapped out through a quick-access menu of favorite items.[20] Shields can be used either to fend off enemy attacks and reduce the damage intake, or offensively through bashing attacks. Blunt, bladed and hacking weapons can be used in close combat and each have specific advantages and roles; as an example, the player can perform power attacks with each weapon. Magic can be used in the form of spells; each of the eighty-five spells has a different function, such as the regeneration of health or the depletion of enemy health.[21] The bow and arrow may be utilized in long-range combat, but the bow can be used as a defensive melee weapon in close combat. Another change from previous games in the series is the elimination of weapon and armor durability; in which a player would periodically have to repair or pay to have items repaired or risk rendering them broken and unusable.

The player can enter sneak mode and pickpocket, or deliver sneak attacks to unsuspecting enemies. If the player drops unwanted loot, such as a shield or item of clothing, some NPCs will attempt to pick the item up, some even asking the player’s permission to take the item.[22]

A player character preparing to battle a Dragon. Dragons can be encountered at random throughout Skyrim.


Elder Scrolls Across the Inner Seas Rebuilding Tamriel

Morrowind was a game full of such “wow” moments: feelings of discovery that slowly fade before you set back out on the hunt for the next one. For a development team, that “wow” moment is everything. It’s one they, too, are hunting for, while they spend years flipping virtual tables to find it.
‘Those watching on from the docks scream out, “All you’re good for is Slaughterfish food!” while I jump from Tel Mora’s pier. But their cries can’t hold me back.

I swim to the east, while the fog of the Inner Seas roll in, and their doubt begins to gnaw away at the back of my mind. What if they are right?

And then I see it. Muddled at first, but then clearer as it rises from the fog. The harbour bells of Firewatch ring out, and I float atop the water staring in awe.

Morrowind was a game full of such “wow” moments: feelings of discovery that slowly fade before you set back out on the hunt for the next one. For a development team, that “wow” moment is everything. It’s one they, too, are hunting for, while they spend years flipping virtual tables to find it.

The previously described “wow” moment is the one where the citizens of Tamriel wake up, and find that Bethesda’s invisible walls – the never-ending seas that kept you on the island of Vvardenfell over the course of Morrowind’s main game – have been torn down, replaced by new lands to explore. They look out over the seas, and find, against their better knowledge, that the world is no longer flat. For a team of modders creating that world, that moment was a long time in the making…’