The Elder Scrolls Online Interview
A: I think it was around 2006, 2007 and I joined the company in 2009 so it’s been cooking away for a while.
Q: What stage was the game at when you came on board?
A: They didn’t have any PVP aspects yet so they asked me to build it! They had just started getting some of the zones fleshed out, getting them playable in the game. Starting to work on the feel of the game rather than just making it functional. The wheels were starting to roll.
Q: How difficult was it to create PVP in a series like The Elder Scrolls? Were there fan expectations?
A: Absolutely. It was tough when we were first going through the discussions of which zones would be PVP. We knew Cyrodiil would be part of it because if you look at the timeline, this period says “civil war”, that’s all it says. So we were like, okay, Imperial City, let’s get started from there. It kind of grew out of that, Imperial City was too small and we wanted larger fights so we pulled out into Cyrodiil itself while making sure what we were doing was ok with Bethesda. And they said sure, it’s 700 years before Oblivion so we have some freedom. So the topography is all the same, same terrain. We took landmarks and did different things with them. Various broken ruins in Oblivion are full castles in our game. It was fun to look at the map and work out how to take Oblivion and work it into a PVP game.
A: Making sure keeps worked, the space and how big they are. Keeps are large so there can be lots of movement. They aren’t vertical; they stay pretty flat to make sure that it’s not a layered fight. We left it open, but you blow up parts of the walls and keeps to get inside.
Q: Is part of the design remit making sure the game is accessible to people whose first experience with the series was Skyrim?
A: A lot of the influence behind why we made TESO was because you’d see your friends online playing Oblivion and Skyrim and you couldn’t play with them. So we should make an online version but keep it familiar… if you’ve played an Elder Scrolls game, our goal is to make this one feel familiar.
Q: How do the traditional PC MMO controls translate to a console pad?
A: The mouse control movement translates really well to the thumbsticks. When it comes to the activation of skills, we are debating whether it’s face buttons or something else, but there are people back at the studio who have used third-party programs and mapped the PC version to a pad and played it. We are still nailing down the control scheme but it plays just fine. The regular Oblivion style combat of left block, right attack is what we are looking at for a starting point but there’s a lot of tweaking still to go. It’s going to feel great.
A: I think when developers started experimenting with having fewer buttons on the hotbar. At level 15 in TESO you can swap your weapons and get another bar that replaces the first. That has helped a lot with mapping keys and such. Most MMOs have the traditional ten slots and mapping ten hotkeys to a pad is hard. With your abilities in TESO, you build them up and collect a load, then choose which five or six you want to use in play at any one time. We could be the same class but you could be in heavy armour and I in light, we could have different abilities on our bar and that could drastically affect how each one of us plays.
Q: Is the console audience ready for MMOs?
A: I think so, especially for TESO. It plays like Skyrim so it’s going to be familiar to them. Same controls, same world, same look and feel. Its going to be more perceived as a good RPG and a good TES game that you get to play with your buddies than a good MMO.
Q: Is there any difficulty with things like certification, patches and updates on console?
A: Certification is difficult, especially for two consoles! We plan on making sure everyone has the same experience, regardless of platform. We don’t want to compromise for any platform. The game is the game.
A: Sure, we looked at Skyrim and took some cues from it, Oblivion as well. Some things we have unfortunately not been able to do like dragons, they didn’t exist at that point in the timeline. But we took a lot from Skyrim, especially regarding the elder scrolls. If I recall, that was the first game where you could actually obtain an elder scroll. So we’ve used that so in PVP, a goal is to take an elder scroll from your enemy. The things we are allowed to do with the world and the IP are always growing.
Q: What do you see as the differences between Oblivion and Skyrim?
A: The combat was different, right and left triggers did different things. We looked at those, whether we would do dual magic or sword and board. That turned into us wanting everyone to use anything, so you needed to be able to block with a staff. So we went with the universal left and right, block and attack mechanics.
Q: What are the expectations for TESO in regards to success? Is it expected to match Skyrim?
A: For us as developers, our expectation is to have a very good Elder Scrolls game that people love and play for a long time. I work on it, so I want a very good game!
Q: Could this be a gateway title for MMO on console?
A: That would be awesome if we did lead the way, and very humbling at the same time. To be one of the guys that helped make an Elder Scrolls game that helped spearhead MMOs to become popular on console. That would be awesome.