Elder Scrolls Online will celebrate its ninth birthday later this year with the release of the Necrom Chapter, which brings players back to Morrowind, albeit to a part that hasn’t been in any of the games after the very first series installment (1994’s Arena): the Telvanni Peninsula, home to the famed and powerful Dunmer mages.
The new expansion coming to Zenimax Online’s MMORPG this June is also adding a brand new class, the Arcanist, inspired by Daedric Prince Hermaeus Mora. It is the first class to be added to Elder Scrolls Online since the Necromancer (which came with the 2019 Chapter, Elsweyr). But it’s really just the tip of the iceberg of what’s going on in a game about to change the structure of its yearly updates, focusing less on story DLCs and more on features dedicated to enhancing replayability.
Wccftech had the chance to discuss all that with Zenimax Online Creative Director Rich Lambert in a live Q&A. Below, you’ll find the full transcript edited and condensed for clarity.
First of all, why did you pick the Shadow Over Morrowind adventure to be this year’s focus for the ongoing Elder Scrolls Online narrative?
The biggest thing to keep in mind whenever we think about where we want to go next, we always look back to what we’ve done and we do that because we want to make sure that the new stuff is always very different than what we’ve previously done.
If we look at High Isle, it was very much this storyline grounded in reality. It was focused on politics and normal houses. There’s a lot more traditional fantasy in Elder Scrolls, too, so we wanted to blow the doors off with that and tell a different kind of story, a bigger story, a little bit crazier story. Once we honed in on Hermaeus Mora, we started looking for locations in the world where we wanted to put this story and we settled on the peninsula because that’s the home of some of the most powerful mages in all the time reality. We thought those two would really match nicely together.
Are you using the same voice actor from Skyrim?
Players will find out soon enough, but yes.
Regarding the new zone, I think you said that it’s a zone Elder Scrolls players haven’t seen since the very first installment (Arena). Is that correct? Does that give you a lot of leeway in how to represent the area?
Technology has changed a lot from 1994 to where it is today, so we can do a lot more, we can get away with space and verticality, and we can play with the overall geometry and whatnot.
It is going to feel like a place in Morrowind with all the weird mushrooms and the architecture and the creatures that people love, but it is going to feel like a different part of Morrowind because it’s not all volcanic ash. It’s got its own unique vibe and feel to it.
How large is Necrom going to be?
It’s about the same size as the High Isle Chapter, which is over 30 hours’ worth of new content.
One of the big draws for the Necrom expansion is the new Arcanist class. Why did you go with this choice, and how does it fit into Elder Scrolls Online’s current meta?
Balance is one of those things you have to take very special care of. The Arcanist class, like all of our classes, can be a tank, damage dealer, and healer, so that’s kind of first and foremost, that it fits in the paradigm. But with the Arcanist, we wanted it to play very differently than our other classes. We didn’t want it to feel like ‘Oh, I can just do the same kinds of rotations over and over and over like I’ve learned with the other classes’. That’s where we started coming up with how we could make it play better and feel different, which is where the Crux system originated or the combo point system; I guess that is a better way to explain it.
Some abilities can generate Crux, others can spend it. Players get this really deep toolkit t play with and they’re constantly thinking, ‘Is now the right time to spend this Crux?’, because spending the Crux will do different things. Some abilities, they’ll just get more powerful, some will cost less, there’s a heal that, when morphed, heals but also returns resources. It’s a new take on classes and it’s gonna be cool to watch all types of Elder Scrolls Online players pick it up and learn it.
Some Elder Scrolls Online fans feel that their existing classes will become a bit outdated, given the flashy animations of the Arcanist. Would overhauling the animations of the other classes be feasible for you?
I think all the animations we have now are already really good. The Arcanist is just kind of new and exciting right now. We’re going to watch feedback and look and listen but we don’t have any plans to go in and do a wholesale revamp of any of the classes. We got a lot of the same kind of feedback when we launched the Necromancer in 2019, and that started to kind of go away after people had seen it and played it for a little while.
I guess it may be just the freshness of the class.
Yeah. It sounds awesome because it’s unique and different. But I think all of the other classes have their own cool visuals and animations as well.
Would you consider adding a class change token to Elder Scrolls Online for those who don’t want to roll another class to play the Arcanist?
We don’t have any plans for that right now.
Beyond classes, would it be possible to add new weapon skill lines? I believe that’s something Elder Scrolls Online still hasn’t done.
I mean, anything is possible in the future. We’re going on nine years now. We didn’t have many of the things in the game now when we launched. New weapons and weapons skill lines are difficult, though, as we’d have to do a lot of art. There are a hundred different motifs in the game and they all have weapons associated with them. If we added a new weapon, we would have to add that to all of them. That’s just one small consideration to think about that. It would be a huge undertaking.
One big change that you made a while ago was hybridization. There’s been a lot of back and forth and changes over the last few patches. Do you plan to add more potion combinations or food recipes that would further enhance hybrids?
It’s something we’re constantly looking at. With Update 37 (which is on PTS), we changed the Glyphs of Physical and Magical Harm so that they fit more into that hybridization paradigm. We’re constantly looking at that stuff and if it makes sense to do it, we’ll totally do it.
Another common request from the Elder Scrolls Online community is whether they’ll get any medium-sized homes with the new Chapter.
It is certainly something we hear a lot of, I think that is one thing where people want different size homes. There’s also another one that says ‘Give us more slots so that we can decorate our homes more’. One is a little bit easier than the other. Specifically, the size of the home is a little bit easier. That is something that’s on our radar and we talk about a lot, whereas with regards to the limit on how many items you can put in your home, that is there specifically just for performance metrics. If we didn’t have a limit enabled, some players wouldn’t even be able to zone into their homes because they would pack them so full that the client would just crash.
Will there be more earnable cosmetics (like skins) through content in Elder Scrolls Online: Necrom? The community is hoping to get them.
I would love to dig into that because we do have that already. Like, there are skins for completing dungeons. There is a mount that you can get for completing the hardest of the child’s things.
There’s all kinds of cosmetics that we put into the game. My question to them would be if they just want skins to be easier to get or if they want more skins. I think last year alone, there were over 200 different cosmetics that you could go and grind for and earn in the game. That would be a question I would love to have answered.
In late 2022, Zenimax Online Studio Head Matt Firor talked about changing the structure of the yearly updates coming to Elder Scrolls Online. Instead of a second dungeon DLC, Q3 will be dedicated to general improvements to the game, while Q4 will deliver a brand new feature instead of a story DLC. What was the thought process here?
Yes. The idea behind that is we want to improve some processes, we want to improve quality of life and stability, so we want to take an update and focus on that. Then, in the fourth quarter, we want to deliver a feature that gives players the kind of content they can sink their teeth into and grind through. Stories are great. We’re never gonna stop building stories. But a lot of that stuff is kind of one-and-done, where players will play through it once and then they’ll be done, and we want to have some more repeatable type content that they can really kind enjoy for a long time.
If I’m not mistaken, there will be just the two Scribes of Fate DLC dungeons coming this year, right?
Are you banking on the endless dungeon feature you teased at the Shadow Over Morrowind reveal to offset the decreased number of new dungeons compared to previous years?
That’s the idea.
Last year, you made a rather significant change to decrease the importance of light attacks for DPS roles in endgame content. That backfired with most of the hardcore crowd and now you’re tweaking that, correct? What happened there?
I think the patch notes explained exactly what we were trying to do. Clearly, we didn’t hit the mark that we wanted with Update 35. We’ve been working on some new tech to solve the problem. We want to raise the floor and this is something that I’ve talked about over and over through the years. Elder Scrolls Online is such a skill-based game at endgame and there’s so much to learn that once you get it and understand it, the game feels ‘easy’, but for those that don’t get it is exceptionally hard.
We’ve been working on ways to raise that floor to make it a little bit easier for those players that are really struggling and that’s what the light attack change was meant to do. Light attacks are still incredibly important in the overall dynamic of combat. It’s just a little bit easier now for the less skilled players.
Personally, I agree with the intention. I used to run a small guild and we had many players who just didn’t light weave enough, so we had trouble completing the Veteran Trial content. But when that Update went live, lots of hardcore players stopped playing at that time and that meant we had more trouble finding people to invite to Trials. Hopefully, these upcoming changes will bring some players back.
Just with this year’s announcement, the upcoming Update 37 on PTS, we’ve noticed a big jump, which is great.
Ok. Can you tell us something about your plans with regard to PVP content once the backend hardware upgrades are completed? PvP players in Elder Scrolls Online have been waiting for quite some time and are very eager.
I understand that, but our focus, as I’ve said many times, is that performance is the most important thing. Adding more stuff to a poorly performing system just makes that system worse. We’ve shown that over the years when we tried to add what we would consider small things to PvP, it just made that performance worse. Our focus is getting the performance there and once we see the performance is better, then we will start doing some of the ideas that we have kicked around and have wanted to do for a while.
Fair enough. Do you have any noteworthy tech upgrades coming to Elder Scrolls Online? With the final Blackwood DLC, you added NVIDIA DLSS and DLAA, and High Isle brought AMD FSR.
There is, but it’s probably stuff that players aren’t really going to notice because it’s more on the back end in terms of just improving stability, logging, and profiling tools, things like that. It’s super important stuff to do. It’s just stuff that isn’t necessarily flashy because players don’t notice that.
I’ve got one last question. Did you ever evaluate with Microsoft whether it would make sense to add something like ESO Plus as a perk for Game Pass Ultimate subscribers?
It’s definitely stuff that we would love to do at some point. All that stuff is really, really cool. Game Pass is awesome. We’re already on Game Pass with Elder Scrolls Online, but not fully integrated.
It’s stuff that we have talked about a lot. I don’t have any firm commitments to any of that stuff right now, but it’s on the list.
Thank you for your time.
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