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The Future of The Elder Scrolls Online
by Horizon Seeker, Contributor — Category: Editorials
Post #164373
The Future of The Elder Scrolls Online

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With launch of The Elder Scrolls Online just around the corner, Zenimax Online Studios has given fans a good idea of what to expect when the game officially launches on April 4, 2014 and even sooner for those with early access! Players will find themselves in the land of Tamriel with friends and family; exploring the world for ancient ruins, laying siege to fortresses in the midst of a great Alliance War, and saving the world from the Daedric Prince, Molag Bal. But once that has all been done, when every wonder has been discovered and every challenge has been met… What’s next? What’s in store for the future of The Elder Scrolls Online?

Now a question you might be asking at this moment is: Why bother thinking about future content when the game hasn’t even been released yet?

It’s a fair question to ask! But the answer lies in the very nature of the game’s development. Massive multiplayer online games tend to be created with the long term in mind. They are developed and maintained with the intention that there will be new additional content for the players to enjoy so that they might continue playing and provide revenue for the developers. This content can include anything from new zones, to epic quests, to entirely new forms of gameplay. In fact if the game engine can handle it, the possibilities are nearly endless!

So the game's development isn’t finished when it’s first launched. Instead it will continuously grow and ideally improve over time. Although it may indeed be a fantastic game right off the bat, it has the potential to become even greater and more amazing over time. As a result, it’s not only important to consider what The Elder Scrolls Online will be at launch, but also what it could be in the future.

Of course many of you are already aware of this! So this article is primarily written for those who are new to MMOs, or for those may be skeptical of what this particular game may have to offer. I hope to dispel any fears of a game forever static from launch, and show that there is a future full of potential and nigh endless entertainment.

Now, onto the article!

What’s Coming!
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To start off, Zenimax Online Studios has already mentioned the content they'd like to add to the game post-launch. Chief among them are two guilds familiar to Elder Scrolls fans and a system to keep them both in check; the shadowy Thieves Guild, the sinister Dark Brotherhood, and the Justice System to lend the two criminal guilds some opposition. Theft and murder go hand in hand with law after all, so it would not be surprising if all three are added to the game at the same time or within a short time frame with a patch or expansion.

Let's start off with each of the guilds. The Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood, much like the Fighter's Guild and Mage's Guild, will likely offer their own unique skill lines and quests for players to enjoy. With the Fighter's Guild focus set on defeating the current daedric invasion, and the Mage's Guild primary concern to recover lost knowledge-- we can safely expect equally dedicated goals for each of these more subtle guilds.

The entire goal of the Thieves guild, true to their name, is to steal valuables for wealth. It is likely they will send us to a location, with the orders to attain a precious item through stealth, speed, or guile. There are in fact already several quests in the game where the player is tasked to steal an expensive item in a friendly town for an shady dealer. The player is given two different options in order to distract the watchful owner of the targeted item, before making off with it and turning it in to the quest giver. Is this a mere taste or prototype of what we may expect from the Thieves Guild when it becomes available to players? We shall soon find out in the months to come, though you can expect some more twists, turns, and challenges involved in the thieving process!

The Dark Brotherhood, unlike the Thieves Guild, revels in murder and assassination instead of burglary and pickpocketing. It is safe to assume that we may be sent off to dispatch NPCs, both in and out of civilization, in the pursuit of gold and pleasing an insidious figurehead entity. Though the question is how might these be any different than the typical "kill this monster" quests that populate the rest of the game?

In previous Elder Scrolls games, a large part of the Dark Brotherhood's appeal was the intricate assassination quest lines that required both cunning and strategy. One of the most popular quests in Oblivion required the player to infiltrate a party and assassinate all five guests attending it. Players could systematically plant false evidence and spread lies to have the guests turn on one another, before delivering the final blow to the last unsuspecting target. With interactable items and dialogue choices with NPCs, The Elder Scrolls Online is certainly capable of hosting quests more complex and refreshing than the typical kill quests-- allowing players to feel like a truly lethal and cunning assassin.

Now we'll move onto the Justice System! In the game's current development stage, players may take items off of tables or from people's wardrobes in homes and cities without consequence. Claiming such items is not considered theft, and so neither the items' owners nor the local guardsmen will react to the player brazenly taking goods. While easy and convenient, this no-consequence claiming of items is out of place in a world that is meant to feel active and alive.

While the details of the Justice System have not been fully divulged yet, it will ideally have players think twice before robbing that merchant stand in the market. After all, what is crime without the danger of being caught? The system may summon guards to oppose you should an NPC notice your crimes, and penalties may befall those thieves and assassins who are unable to escape. Obviously death is not a finality in The Elder Scrolls Online, so penalties may come in the form of a gold loss or a hampering debuff. Nothing has been officially discussed so far, but you can expect more light to be shed on the subject in the coming months.

Aside from that, players can also expect the usual additions found in MMOs such as new dungeons, gear, bug fixes, and general optimization improvements. In fact a new adventure zone known as "Craglorn" is planned to be included in the first post-launch update by Zenimax Online Studios. Interestingly enough, horse racing was also teased to be introduced in the future, giving players another way to entertain and test themselves. But below I'll discuss some potential additions to the game not yet mentioned, and delve into how they might be added to the game and what implications may come with them.

New Zones?
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As seen in the official Interactive Map of Tamriel, not all zones will be available to explore at launch. Regions such as western Skyrim, southern Hammerfell, and most of Elsweyr have not yet been added to the game. While this may seem disappointing to some, it has allowed the developers to focus on making the current playable zones the best they can be and allow room for the game to grow going into the future!

Now of course the addition of new zones doesn't just add more of the same old land to explore. Ideally there will be new environments and architecture to see, creatures to fight, and storylines to participate in! What did Winterhold look like before the Great Collapse? What monsters lurk in the farthest reaches of Black Marsh? What effect did the knahaten flu have on the homeland of the khajiit? There are mysteries to solve and new challenges to overcome.

It may be months or even years before you can explore these lands or finally see your most dreamed about zone, but don't fret! It will all come in due time.

New Skill Lines?
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The developers have built the progression in The Elder Scrolls Online not only upon leveling and gear, but around skill lines. Trees filled with abilities that can be improved with points achieved from all sorts of different activities. There are skill lines for armor, skill lines for weapons, and skill lines for class abilities. There are even unique skill lines for each of the guilds and even "world" skill lines for vampires and werewolves! Zenimax Online Studios has stated they have plans to add new abilities and skills going forward, though what can we expect to see?

As mentioned earlier in this article, there will likely come new skill lines for when the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood are implemented. The abilities will likely allow you to better evade or eliminate your enemies. Though how this might be done without stepping on the toes of the stealth-heavy Nightblades remains yet to be seen!

It's important to consider the implications when adding a new skill line in regards to game balance. Obviously an "unbeatable skill bar combination" would be undesired, but the skills must still serve a unique and helpful function. Meanwhile adding redundant skill lines may simply feel like a waste of development resources. Rest assured though, players can expect consistent new abilities added to the game that will improve builds and alter strategies as development continues!

New Races?
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Introducing a new playable race has always been a popular route for MMOs to add variety and garner fresh interest from its player base. It opens up new visual models to play as, and can often draw in new and returning players alike. But will The Elder Scrolls Online follow suit? The main series has always been fairly consistent with their races; with the orcs as the latest addition back in 2002 with the release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind with no further additions through Oblivion or Skyrim.

Not many existing races in the series lend themselves to be candidates for a new playable race. The dwemer, or dwarves as some may call them, have very nearly vanished from the face of the world, with no mention of them ever returning. The falmer, or snow elves, have degenerated into little more than savage cave dwellers with very few escaping this fate. And though there are races mentioned in books such as the Imga, the ape-like neighbors of the Bosmer, and Maormer, or perhaps better known as the sea elves; very little is known of them besides a few basics.

It's important to consider the base implications of adding a new race to the game. Would the race be available to all three factions? If not, then what other races could be added to achieve a balance in attention for all three factions? There is also the lore to consider, which may feel compromised should liberties be taken while adding races.

All in all new playable races are certainly a possibility but aren't strictly necessary for The Elder Scrolls Online. Zenimax Online Studios may choose to forgo new races, given the series already extensive selection to choose from, and focus on developing other enjoyable aspects to the game to keep it feeling fresh and draw in new players.

New PvP Content?
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Currently Cyrodiil is the one and only PvP zone in the game. It is a huge zone however, filled with hundreds of players and plenty of activities for them to partake in. There will no doubt be continued development resources put into PvP as it's a core part of the game. But what sort of things can we expect?

An easy answer might be adding new zones for PvP; a new place with new objectives to beat up other players! But adding a new PvP zone has inherent consequences that must be considered. Creating an alternative area to fight players would divide the PvP population between two places. With the addition of a new zone, Cyrodiil would have less people, and the experience of siege battles and capturing keeps will not feel as massive and chaotic as they once were. The core PvP zone will feel less dangerous, and its tone will be entirely different. This has been a consistent problem for MMO developers, with old PvP zones growing emptier and emptier with every new one presented.

An alternative for Zenimax Online Studios would be to improve the Cyrodiil experience instead. Adding new types of nodes to capture will give players a new objective in PvP, while still contributing to the overall Alliance war. A new sweeping public dungeon in Cyrodiil will beckon players for new adventures with friends and new skirmishes with enemies in the depths of the region. New siege weapons would force even veteran players to rethink their strategies of attack and defense.

Cyrodiil is such a massive zone for PvP, that there is much more potential in its boundaries beyond what we've seen so far. This of course does not mean that Zenimax won't add new zones or instanced forms of PvP in the future. They have mentioned in interviews that should the player base demand it, they'll offer it fair consideration!

A New Nemesis?
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The main storyline of The Elder Scrolls Online pits players against the evil daedric prince, Molag Bal, and his ally, the first necromancer, Mannimarco. As is inevitable in every story however, the hero eventually faces off against the villain and after an epic battle, triumphs gloriously. Now although it is possible that Molag Bal will be the omnipresent main antagonist throughout the game's entire lifespan and that only his lieutenants are ever truly dispatched, let's consider what other powerful malevolent forces may threaten us in the future?

Fortunately there is no shortage of wicked fiends in the Elder Scrolls universe that want to dominate or destroy all of Tamriel. In the past games we have had a scheming sorcerer, a self-proclaimed god, a world-eating dragon, and the daedric prince of destruction to contend against. We have fought against the undead, demons, cultists, and ancient monsters in our quest to save all of Tamriel. So there is without a doubt many things out there seeking to end our lives. And although they may be smaller in scope than Molag Bal or specific to a certain zone, we can expect new foes to spring up, itching for a fight!

New Gameplay Features?
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Perhaps the most exciting prospect, but also the most difficult to create, are the development of new ways to play the game. There is nearly limited potential when it comes to developing systems that aren't even in the game yet. Alternatives to the standard combat, or how people spend their time can make The Elder Scrolls Online feel fresh and draw in new players. Zenimax Online Studios has already mentioned introducing horse racing to the game, so what else might they have up their sleeve?

One popular feature discussed ever since the game was first announced was the possibility of player housing. While there has only been speculation if player housing will be added, it could certainly be done if development resources are applied to it. Decorating, maintaining, and living in a home of one's own has been popular in both past Elder Scrolls games as well as other games in today's market. While the developers have explicitly stated that player housing will not be in at launch; they did not mention if it would eventually be added. Whether it's a tease or an idea on the back burner; player housing would certainly add a new dimension to how players spend their time and attention.

Other possible additions to gameplay include mounted combat. While there are definitely balance issues to consider, fighting on horseback upon the plains of Cyrodiil could provide a fresh take on the usual combat mechanics, and introduce new strategies to conquering your opponent. While every player has access to a horse, a separate and temporary item could allow players to utilize mounted combat in a way much like how purchase siege weapons operate.

Mini-games could also be included at some point. Much of the time in MMOs is spent socializing or, even if we don't like it, waiting. Mini-games could provide for either a fun distraction or a way to connect with others. A simple diversion can go a long way to making The Elder Scrolls Online a more fulfilling experience.

The Road Ahead
With the upcoming launch of The Elder Scrolls Online, go ahead and enjoy the initial content but also keep your chin raised for what the coming months or even years might bring. The developers are not yet done astounding fans with wonder and awe as new features, zones, and rewards are introduced into the game. Don't be afraid to speak your mind on what you'd like added either! Zenimax Online Studios has always insisted that they are constantly listening to fan feedback, and that it will ultimately determine the direction of the game.

With a strong core foundation and continued support from both the developers and fans alike, it would be safe to say that there is a bright future ahead for The Elder Scrolls Online.

[Image: TheRoadAhead_zps6d09e57d.jpg]

Thieves Guild Implementation
Dark Brotherhood Implementation
Justice System
New Adventure Zone: Craglorn
No player housing at launch.
Veteran Content and Horse Racing

Additional TESOF Discussions
Paul Sage Q&A on Crafting and Post-Launch Features
"Progressing your character" beyond Level Cap
Discussion on "ESO Road Ahead"
The following 10 users Like Horizon Seeker's post:
Archaic Dev, Diebleuekrabben, Harlwystyr, hillmje, Isilmo, JandeV, Leinad, Ri'Do'Ja, Sienna, Triskele

Comments on The Future of The Elder Scrolls Online
Post #164403

Faction & Race:
Aldmeri Dominion
Great article Horizon. I wonder what the TG and DB will be trying to ultimately accomplish, as well as how DB and TG ranks will be implemented, and how much a player can progress in both guilds. The Justice System also provides some questions. How powerful will the guards be? What will the consequences be? Can a player become a member of the guards? Will the Justice System be like in Skyrim, where each region/town/province has their own crime records? Will each alliance/province share information? Will it be a combination (once a bounty gets to a certain point in town, the town reports it to the region, once the bounty gets to a certain point in a region, the region reports it to the province, once the bounty gets to a certain point in a province, the province reports it to the whole alliance [Vallenwood reports to Elwesyr and the Summerset Isles, etc.])?

I would like to see some new/improved skill lines.

I don't think that a new race will be added, but maybe a "special" version of a race could be achieved at a certain point/level/as a quest reward.

I like the idea of new siege weapons being added to PvP. I would also like to see some defensive stuff in PvP, like spikes, oil, etc. (did not get to PvP in beta).

I would like to see a lieutenant of Molag Bal specific to each province, and then one above them specific to each alliance. A new nemesis could be the Prophet, maybe he falls to the dark or was a slave to Molag Bal/a different Daedric Prince.

I would like to see player housing, maybe even the ability to open a store, and hire NPCs as employees. I would like mini-games in this game.

I also want to know if one can be promoted in each alliance's army, and if so, what powers they actually have, and what rank they can progress to.
The following 1 user likes Ri'Do'Ja's post:
Archaic Dev
Post #164810

Faction & Race:
Ebonheart Pact
I love this article which read well and touched on all the key points. 12 hours to go till the community is allowed in and life feeds into online Tamriel. For the sake of nostalgia, having not been into TESO since Morrowind in 2004 I would like to see the dancing bars reappear. Also, what no mmorpg has managed to achieve before, random algorithms. By which I mean genuine random events or encounters. I guess for balancing purposes this notion in online gaming has not been entertained and so game mechanics generally try to give the illusion of this without really allowing that 1-10 roll of the dice.
Post #164829

Faction & Race:
Ebonheart Pact
I think this will be a very successful game due to all the effort Zenimax and Bethesda has put into this game. I know Zenimax mainly made the game, but Bethesda did oversee it to make sure it fits the details everybody is looking for. I thank them for making a game in my favorite game series an online one, I can't wait for it to come out in June for XBOX. I know people who have never heard of the TES series who want to play this game very badly. I like how they are bringing back the party massacre, if I read that right. I'm also happy to hear that the cut off areas of the map will be brought in at some point in the future, I want to see Hammerfell and Elswyre badly, Black Marsh too, but it won't be at the top of the list for now. See you on the virtual battlefield, as said by the company I dislike very much.
Post #165511

Faction & Race:
Aldmeri Dominion
Congratulations on making it into the Tamriel Chronicle, issue #52. You are a yearlong addition!
Post #165953
Default Avatar
Faction & Race:
Aldmeri Dominion
Nice article!
Post #167187

Faction & Race:
Ebonheart Pact
Nice article! +1.
I would really like to see them integrate firstperson more. Make it more agile and precise.
Post #170700
Video Guy

Faction & Race:
Daggerfall Covenant
It would be interesting for an expansion to take us to the continent of the Akivir. But that would break the lore as there wasn't any communication between Tamriel and Akavir during this era. Still, it's an interesting idea.

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