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The Balancing Act: Content Expansion Part 1
by Terminus Zaire, Contributor — Category: Editorials
Post #45324
[Image: thebalancingact001.jpg]

The Balancing Act will be released prior to the Beta and once the NDA is lifted to discuss issues that will arise if The Elder Scrolls Online is designed with an imbalance in one particular aspect of the game, and how this will ultimately affect the entire game play as a whole. This series will discuss the warning signs of these imbalances, and what Zenimax can do to reverse or minimize the impact of the results of them.


One of the most challenging aspects of balancing an MMO involves the release of new content into a pre-existing world. Releasing new content is necessary to ensure that players never truly finish experiencing something new in the game, and can even help to balance issues that were unanticipated during testing. However, new content can easily overcompensate for an expected goal and leave the game even worse off than it was originally. New content includes a wide range of updates such as not only the addition of quests or new areas, but also enhanced graphics and game quality that can still impact gameplay and the global economy. While it would be easy to touch upon all of these different categories, this article will focus primarily on the release of new areas for exploration.

PLEASE NOTE: While all of the information used in building this article is accurate, there is a very good chance that it may have been misinterpreted. Zenimax has provided us with vast information about what will be in the game, but has seldom hinted at will will NOT be added. Therefore, please remember that the content available upon release of the game will most likely be different from what the images below portray, as they’ll have had an additional 10 months to continue development. Use this information to learn what areas WILL be added, as compared to what will NOT.

Also, the majority of the information regarding the design on the maps below was released in a previous project I did a few months ago. The information is still accurate, but I will only be discussing changes that I’ve made to the map designs since that release.
You can find my original discussion on Areas Available on TESO Release, found here, and is highly recommended before continuing to read. It includes all the sources for my information used to build the maps, and would have nearly doubled the length of this article if I included it all here!



Before we can analyze what areas will be released in the future, we need to take a look at what will be released upon launch of The Elder Scrolls Online. The first step was to identify a base map that could be used to outline the regions that each Alliance would cover. It was after the start of my cartography project that I realized the base map I was using wasn’t 100% accurate, and I began searching for a new one. To my dismay, I realized that a map of Second Era Tamriel looks very different from one nearly 1,000 years later. I ultimately concluded that the only way to get hold of an accurate map was to build one myself!

Below is the result of combining the map released in the Alliances At War video with the cover page of an article written by Game Informer. Zenimax has actually released 2 different maps to date; the map released in the Alliances video contains an island that doesn’t exist in any other, allowing us to assume that this is going to be the location of Bleakrock Isle, the starting location for the Ebonheart Pact (directly south of Solstheim). I carefully compared this map with the one released by Game Informer and was stunned when the borders aligned perfectly with the topography. I overlaid the two maps and successfully created the first map to accurate depict the borders for each region of Tamriel during the Alliance War.

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While comparing these two maps, there were some instances where I seriously doubted following the exact border used by Game Informer. As I continued working, I found that it had actually been an error on my part in the comparison rather than the map being inaccurate. Because of this, I can say with certainty that this map is completely accurate down to the very last mountain! Some may notice that the boarder between Valenwood and Elsweyr appears different, but the map looks relatively similar to most modern versions.

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The next step involved using the information provided by Zenimax and our understanding of faction control and alliances during the Second Era to determine what areas would be available on launch, and which areas wouldn’t. Previous work has shown that the color coordination on the map was actually relatively accurate at identifying which areas would be controlled by each Alliance, even though Zenimax claimed that it was “just a representation”. However, this only creates more questions than it actually answers when we look at the map itself, as it appears that a large portion of Skyrim and parts of Hammerfell are under Imperial control.

Some borders have been changed since the last discussion on these areas, such as further reducing the land available to explore in Southeastern Cyrodiil. This change was made due to the fact that the cities located in this area would not contain any strategic significance in the war effort. Some may be concerned that Imperial City is no longer in the center of the battlefield, but this is only an illusion created by the fact that the Alliances don’t control their entire regions due to the Reachmen. The Reachmen were also the reason for reducing the explorable area of Western Skyrim even further, as they control most of the Skyrim/Hammerfell border. It should be noted that none of the Alpha testers have ever discussed traveling into Skyrim in great detail, but generally made their way to heartland Morrowind instead.

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Finally, using the lines drawn out on the previous map, I created a relatively accurate rendering of what areas will REALLY be available to each Alliance at launch, along with what areas could be eventually added in the future. There is one part of this map, however, that I’m still not completely sure how to approach. Land within both Skyrim and Hammerfell are under the control of Reachmen, who have allied themselves with the Empire. While this land obviously isn’t controlled by any of the Alliances, it’s too far away from Imperial City to really be considered PvP territory. If these areas aren’t going to be available upon release, how will the Daggerfall Covenant travel to Cyrodiil? There has been no mention of Imperial controlled land that wasn’t a PvP area, but what else could exist if the area is controlled by an enemy?

Some areas on the map of Southwestern and Eastern Cyrodiil appear to almost be greyed out, implying that these areas won’t be controlled when TESO launches. This could potentially mean that the Imperials will be fighting over them just as we are considering the fact that they’ve been referred to as the “Fourth Faction”. This means that we could potentially see attacks orchestrated against us from the Imperials, who will be also fighting to control Imperial City. Unfortunately, it could also simply mean that the areas won't be available upon release, which would be an incredible disappointment for many (I'm dying to explore a restored Kvatch and Sutch!).

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In designing the map above, I took into account the terrain and topography of the landscape to build natural barriers to prevent players from accessing restricted areas. For example, the border to access Southern Cyrodiil was created using the river to signify the literal end of the land. Zenimax could design TESO to make deadly creatures live in the water that would kill anyone who attempted to cross. Seeing as the Imperial City will also be inaccessible during launch, there’s a very good chance that we won’t be able to swim in the Niben Bay or Lake Rumare. Other natural barriers that Zenimax might utilize include mountains too steep to climb, or even forests that are literally too dense to navigate through.

Regardless of how they are implemented, there appears to be a consensus that these barriers needs to be as natural to the game as possible to support immersion. There’s nothing worse than exploring Skyrim and hitting that barrier, knowing that it’s the developer’s choice to not let you go further. While there should still be wall barriers in case somebody manages to slip by the first line of defense, they should only be implemented as a safeguard. Players would rather be shot in the head by an unknown sniper than simply being told “You can’t go that way”. Chances are there will be expansions in the future that will open up new areas that have no features that provide natural barriers. While it could be as simple as taking an arrow to the knee to prevent players from traveling further, hopefully Zenimax will impress us with a creative system that doesn’t break immersion.


Releasing new areas can dramatically impact the popularity and strength of any given Alliance, along with varying economic and social implications. If one Alliance receives a large update (or larger than another), players may be more likely to play that new content over their normal faction. This could result in anything from overcrowded PvE areas to an imbalance in PvP strength. While releasing content for the entire community can be difficult to balance, it becomes even more difficult when only a percentage of players have access.

[Image: 28FH8.jpeg]

Zenimax may attempt to reduce imbalances by releasing content updates to all 3 factions at once, which would encourage players to focus on their primary faction’s content first before exploring others. Another way to obtain balance may be a rotation system, where every month they focus on a new alliance to add content to. These methods depend primarily on how Zenimax will choose to focus their development efforts, whether it being everyone working on the main project or designated groups working on updates for all 3 alliances at once. Updating all 3 alliance areas at once would benefit everyone, but may result in rushed or underdeveloped content. Problems may also occur due to the fact that some factions simply have more land than others, which will eventually need to be filled with content. Too much content in one faction over another may result in faster leveling, providing one group a significant advantage over the others.

While this article only lightly touches on the difficulty of balancing the physical implications associated with content updates, it opens the door for further discussion of how Zenimax could make or break The Elder Scrolls Online as the next greatest MMO. We can only hope that they as a company understand this, and will listen to player input with an open mind to correct any inequalities that may result in the future.

Part 2 will come out next Tuesday, discussing in more detail the potential results from adding new content and quests to a pre-balanced and personally-phased MMO!
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Comments on The Balancing Act: Content Expansion Part 1
Post #45342
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Terminus Zaire Wrote:Players would rather be shot in the head by an unknown sniper than simply being told “You can’t go that way”. Chances are there will be expansions in the future that will open up new areas that have no features that provide natural barriers. While it could be as simple as taking an arrow to the knee to prevent players from traveling further, hopefully Zenimax will impress us with a creative system that doesn’t break immersion.

Ah, I remember bringing this up on our last week's discussion. I'm glad you included it in your article. The idea will work great against a few dozen invaders but would be unrealistic if the same method is implemented to stop an entire battalion in it's track.

Great article.
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Post #45514
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I love it! (Reference anyone)
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Post #45738
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great article
does anyone know if fast traveling will be possible in TESO?
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Post #45889
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(February 27th 2013, 05:03 PM)Duraikan617 Wrote: great article
does anyone know if fast traveling will be possible in TESO?

Yes, fast travel will be available through the use of Wayshrines.

In fact, you can see a Wayshrine in the Introduction Video about 3/4 of the way through, right before the werewolf combat scene.

Wayshrines can only be used once they're unlocked by the player, and are also respawn points when we die.
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Post #46017
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thanks
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There will also be Mounts i hope i can ride a camel as a RedGuard :D
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Post #46330
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It doesn't look like Leyawiin is included in the maps. I could totally be recalling this wrong, but I though Leyawiin was going to be in control of the Aldmeri Dominion. I think it was an interview with Matt Firor where I heard it in. He basically said that each faction would control a town in Cyrodiil that they could not lose control of, I am almost positive that Leyawiin was one of them. Unfortuantely I do not have a link to a source, I should really start making a reference page haha
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Post #46345
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(March 1st 2013, 06:18 PM)Grape Drank Wrote: It doesn't look like Leyawiin is included in the maps. I could totally be recalling this wrong, but I though Leyawiin was going to be in control of the Aldmeri Dominion. I think it was an interview with Matt Firor where I heard it in. He basically said that each faction would control a town in Cyrodiil that they could not lose control of, I am almost positive that Leyawiin was one of them. Unfortuantely I do not have a link to a source, I should really start making a reference page haha

Yep, I have one about 8 pages long!

This has indeed been confirmed, but I haven't found any information that specifies Leyawiin as one of these cities.

Leyawiin was ultimately removed due to the fact that 90% of both Elsweyr and Black Marsh have been confirmed will NOT be available.

It simply doesn't make sense to have that section of PvP area located between two areas that nobody can access! It's a waste of time to develop that area if nobody will travel far enough south to use it.
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Post #46367
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(March 1st 2013, 07:03 PM)Terminus Zaire Wrote:
(March 1st 2013, 06:18 PM)Grape Drank Wrote: It doesn't look like Leyawiin is included in the maps. I could totally be recalling this wrong, but I though Leyawiin was going to be in control of the Aldmeri Dominion. I think it was an interview with Matt Firor where I heard it in. He basically said that each faction would control a town in Cyrodiil that they could not lose control of, I am almost positive that Leyawiin was one of them. Unfortuantely I do not have a link to a source, I should really start making a reference page haha

Yep, I have one about 8 pages long!

This has indeed been confirmed, but I haven't found any information that specifies Leyawiin as one of these cities.

Leyawiin was ultimately removed due to the fact that 90% of both Elsweyr and Black Marsh have been confirmed will NOT be available.

It simply doesn't make sense to have that section of PvP area located between two areas that nobody can access! It's a waste of time to develop that area if nobody will travel far enough south to use it.

That makes sense, especially with how large Cyrodiil will be in game. It would definitely not be a very active area. I wonder if there will be ways to cross the Niben River from each playable side of the zone, or if you would have to run around. I have not heard anything on that.
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