Sometimes you can just tell when a developer is excited about the game they’re working on. That’s the feeling I got from Elder Scrolls Online Creative Director Paul Sage when he talked to MMORPG.com about The Elder Scrolls Online beta, and how the game is coming along. This game has been slowly making its way up my most anticipated list, and this interview may have just sent it over the top. From Beta testing to combat, from guilds to progression, Sage discussed where the dev team feels the game is and where they’d like to take it.
Beta Hopes and Roll Out
The Elder Scrolls Online beta sign-ups began this morning, and after years of development the outside world is about ready to get a peak at the highly anticipated MMORPG. During the beta testing period Sage and the dev team hope to get some great feedback on all aspects of the game. There are many important aspects that make up an MMORPG as a whole, and the team really want to know not only are their systems good, but do they create the overall feel of an Elder Scrolls game. Sage seems to understand that if they do not make it feel like an Elder Scrolls game that putting the name on the box will do little good. The game has to be fun, but also has to give players a reason to stick around.
“That’s why it’s so important to get people in now,” Sage says in the interview, “so they can give us really good feedback so we can see if the game is where we think it is.”
Sage is excited to see how players will take to the PvP aspects of the game, and how what’s available will help keep players in the game and coming back for more, as the three-faction world PvP is a fairly large part of what the game has to offer.
The Elder Scrolls Online beta testing period will consist of testing during specific times and for specific focuses such as PvP, crafting, etc. These tests will begin to broaden in time and scope as the beta testing process continues. The tests will start small, with a select group of initial testers and testing objectives, but will ramp up to become larger and larger as time goes on.
They are asking for players to sign-up for the Mac beta as well, and while there were no promises made about a Mac beta rolling out at the same time of the PC beta, Sage says that the Mac client will be available for the games launch on the same day the PC version is. Be patient Mac testers, it looks like your time will definitely come soon.
Speaking of the official game launch, Sage says that they are still on track for a 2013 launch. Of course, that could mean a December 31st launch, and there could still be some setbacks between now and then, but it is encouraging that a 2013 launch window has been set, and so far everything is still on track.
When you talk about making a game feel like an Elder Scrolls game, getting the combat right is going to be crucial to creating that unique feel. The Elder Scrolls Online MMORPG adopted the very ‘action’ type of mouse controls from the RPG games, as well as a reduced action bar that will leave you engrossed in the actual game play of the world you are in. We have seen examples of basic combat in TESO, but Sage says they have taken that base combat experience and expanded upon it.
“We are in a more advanced stage,” he said.
“We think the core is really fun and now it’s making sure all of the filler elements are in there and making sure it feels really fleshed out.”
The dev team are looking at and building upon AI and how monsters interact, attack, and co-operate with one another in combat situations.
There is also a focus right now on damage effects and resistances. They want to create a great combat experience where not only do you battle and take down and enemy, but you do so by burning him and turning him to ash, or in some other unique way. They are adding and improving on player combos and trying to really put a layer of polish on the overall combat system so that it is truly unique and engaging.
When talking about combat in The Elder Scrolls Online beta, Sage says that it is one of those features where the dev team constantly says to itself, “This is really good, but we can make this a lot better.”
The biggest aspect when approaching combat is how it feels after hundreds of hours of gameplay and the dev team are focused on creating plenty of options to keep combat as fresh as possible from hour 1 to hour 100.
How your character progresses, and where all this is going to end up, is central to character development and a player’s investment in that character. When it comes to character progression in The Elder Scrolls Online MMORPG players will be free to advance their characters and gameplay experience in any direction they would like. Any armor, any weapon, it’s all up to you to decide what your character is and how it plays. The team is trying to create the absolute most choices possible without overwhelming the player. Being able to adapt and strive in any situation the game presents is a focus for the developers. The big main skill lines are really being focused on to create the most options possible for players.
“We just felt that we wanted even more choice and even more customization. Player choice, player customization is really key,” says Sage.
For those players who are achievers, and really want to master everything in the game, Sage says that the progression system well leave them “extremely pleased”, implying that players will be able to go back and master weapons and skills they may not have concentrated on as they made their way to level 50.
And don’t think that once you hit level 50 it’s over either. An MMORPG has to keep players interested and playing the game in order to survive, and Sage says that as far as progression goes, getting your character to max level would consist of maybe 1/3 of what you can do.
“When people hit 50, we want them to be interested more in breadth than in depth – lateral progression, as opposed to vertical,” he said.
Many MMO players feel that the real game doesn’t begin until Max level anyway, so somebody might as well give them what they want and continue more aspects of the game post-max level than simply dungeon running and gear grinding. Significant post-50 character progression would go a long way in alleviating the repetitive humdrum that is gear grinds and daily quests.
Sage wants guilds in The Elder Scrolls Online to be more than just a chat hub, and the first goal is to make getting people into guilds as easy as possible. There will be out-of-game systems for guilds, and players will be able to join multiple guilds if they so choose. There most likely will not be a seperate beta test for guilds, but expect the systems to be tested at some point during The Elder Scrolls Online beta test period.
Guilds can take keeps, accumulate alliance points, and serve as strong teams with influence in the game.
When asked to clarify that guilds could not be cross-alliance (cross-faction) Sage simply said, “I wouldn’t jump to conclusions at this point”
Crafting is going to be “extremely important” in The Elder Scrolls Online according to Sage. There are going to be several different ways for crafting items to enter the world. These ‘faucets’ as he referred to them will provide various means to obtain different crafting materials. They do not want to punish crafters who do not wish to participate in certain aspects of the game, but there will be benefits to gathering crafters with more diverse gameplay. Of course crafters can always simply trade with players who participate in a part of the game that they do not. The system doesn’t look to punish players who do not play a broader game, but instead wants to reward players that do.
The dev team is looking to make crafting a central part of the game, and dungeons will not necessarily have the best gear, but players may need both crafting and dungeons to create the optimal gear sets. Players will be free to try all the crafting professions, but if they really want to master a particular type of crafting they will really have to focus on that profession to make themselves the best they can be.
We should be getting more info on crafting coming soon, but this is already more info than we’ve gotten so far about it.
Timetable for Beta Invites
Without giving away a definite date, Sage said that the first wave of beta invites should be rolling out very soon.