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[Preview] The Elder Scrolls Online: Zenimax' MMO Philosophy

BillMurphyBillMurphy Managing EditorBerea, OHPosts: 2,360MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Last week during a special MMO-enthusiast press day at Zenimax Online Studios, we learned a lot about what ZOS hope's Elder Scrolls Online will be to gamers. In this article we recap the team's opening presentation which focuses on their core philosophy and design decisions.

You hear game developers talk about design a lot. You hear them talk about philosophy almost as much. The best part of the Elder Scrolls Online presentation last Wednesday was that we heard about the design and the philosophy behind the game, and then we immediately played it. For anyone who had doubts about Zenimax Online Studios’ monster undertaking, it is time to end those doubts. The game is playable, and it is amazing. So what did the team do to really introduce the hardcore press to the game last week? They gave us their design ideals, and then sat us in front of the game for three straight hours. You know you have a good game, when no one gets up for lunch.  But let’s go over how ZOS introduced their core philosophy behind the game to us all. 

Read the rest of Garrett Fuller's Elder Scrolls Online: Zenimax' MMO Philosophy.

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Comments

  • KuppaKuppa Boulder, COPosts: 3,292Member Uncommon
    Good write up. From what you guys saw, do you think skills in your hotbar are the main way you do combat in the game or are they more like in the actual SRPG games were they are more for situational use. I just want to get a feeling of wether the combat is more like typical MMOs or like the TESO combat.

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  • BillMurphyBillMurphy Managing Editor Berea, OHPosts: 2,360MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

    I'd say it's a mix. We only got to about level 7 or so, and had three or four skills on our bars.  Those were more situational I'd say.  I would pull a target with one Dragonknight skill that sent out a chain and yanked them in.  Then I'd lay into them with my light and strong weapon attacks.

    You also only have limited stamina (weapon skills) and magicka (spells) and it recharges based on your stats... so yes, I'd say it feels a lot more like TES in practice.

  • KuppaKuppa Boulder, COPosts: 3,292Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by BillMurphy

    I'd say it's a mix. We only got to about level 7 or so, and had three or four skills on our bars.  Those were more situational I'd say.  I would pull a target with one Dragonknight skill that sent out a chain and yanked them in.  Then I'd lay into them with my light and strong weapon attacks.

    You also only have limited stamina (weapon skills) and magicka (spells) and it recharges based on your stats... so yes, I'd say it feels a lot more like TES in practice.

    Thats pretty cool, Im glad they are changing their ways to be more like the originals. Do you guys think this was because of player feedback or maybe Bethesda influence(Did they mention why their change of tune?)?

    Crossing fingers for first person view!! 

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  • BillMurphyBillMurphy Managing Editor Berea, OHPosts: 2,360MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon
    Originally posted by Kuppa
    Originally posted by BillMurphy

    I'd say it's a mix. We only got to about level 7 or so, and had three or four skills on our bars.  Those were more situational I'd say.  I would pull a target with one Dragonknight skill that sent out a chain and yanked them in.  Then I'd lay into them with my light and strong weapon attacks.

    You also only have limited stamina (weapon skills) and magicka (spells) and it recharges based on your stats... so yes, I'd say it feels a lot more like TES in practice.

    Thats pretty cool, Im glad they are changing their ways to be more like the originals. Do you guys think this was because of player feedback or maybe Bethesda influence(Did they mention why their change of tune?)?

    Crossing fingers for first person view!! 

    I think it was because many, press and players alike, said: "This really better have the TES feel".  So far it does.  But it also really needs great crafting, and hopefully player-created stuff like housing down the road.  It needs to feel like a world you want to live in, beyond the quests and story.  If they get that part right, it'll be great.  The combat, exploration, and questing are spot on TES though.

  • karmathkarmath Posts: 829Member Uncommon

    Hoping for "miracle" patches on pre alpha games. I'm speechless.

  • Xstatic912Xstatic912 New York, NYPosts: 365Member
    Sorry but if the combat in this is slow, i won't be playing..

    And any word on if its sub base or hybrid F2p, because no matter how good they make it, the mmo market is way too picky to stay long term.. And please don't say look a wow, most of wow members are vets and don't want to let go of there character progression..
  • BurntvetBurntvet Baltimore, MDPosts: 2,940Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by karmath

    Hoping for "miracle" patches on pre alpha games. I'm speechless.

    I don't believe in miracle patches. Often promised, never seen.

    Zenimax's philosophy is "If we put ES on the box, it will sell."

     

    Even if all of what is mentioned in the article is true, there is still far, far too much missing of what most fans consider "ES gameplay".

     

  • Dreamo84Dreamo84 Niagara Falls, NYPosts: 3,437Member Uncommon
    Only thing I don't like so far is the personal phasing. I don't wanna Be in a world where one thing happened to you and not me

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  • DeniZgDeniZg ZagrebPosts: 669Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Fendel84M
    Only thing I don't like so far is the personal phasing. I don't wanna Be in a world where one thing happened to you and not me

    Personal phasing seemed akward in WoW and with GW2 on the horizon, dynamic events of GW2 seemed much more interesting.

    Today, I would chose personal phasing, because it provides better feeling of permanent change to the environment. GW2 system of defending the same outpost every half an hour gives me the "Groundhog day" feeling and gets old very fast.

     
  • aphydorkaphydork Boring, ORPosts: 133Member

    Personal phasing is far from ideal, but it's necessary if you want to see the world change. It allows you to do things like burn down villages and protect towns and, then, have them stay that way unless you do something otherwise. Nothing ruins immersion like completing an event that has major consequences, only to find the changes are undone as soon as you zone out, relog, or wait 5-10 minutes.

    The Groundhog Day feeling of Guild Wars 2 is definitely there for some people. You can actually make rounds. Kill a major boss that prevents the summoning of their deity, protect the townsfolk here, take back a village there, kill a giant, rescue puppies, and, by the time you rescue the puppies, you can go full circle back to the major boss that has respawned! Protect the townsfolk again, take back the village again, kill the giant, rescue puppies... And people actually did this for hours to get ahead.

    The ability to enter someone else's phase is nice addition, though.

     

  • Dreamo84Dreamo84 Niagara Falls, NYPosts: 3,437Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by aphydork

    Personal phasing is far from ideal, but it's necessary if you want to see the world change. It allows you to do things like burn down villages and protect towns and, then, have them stay that way unless you do something otherwise. Nothing ruins immersion like completing an event that has major consequences, only to find the changes are undone as soon as you zone out, relog, or wait 5-10 minutes.

    The Groundhog Day feeling of Guild Wars 2 is definitely there for some people. You can actually make rounds. Kill a major boss that prevents the summoning of their deity, protect the townsfolk here, take back a village there, kill a giant, rescue puppies, and, by the time you rescue the puppies, you can go full circle back to the major boss that has respawned! Protect the townsfolk again, take back the village again, kill the giant, rescue puppies... And people actually did this for hours to get ahead.

    The ability to enter someone else's phase is nice addition, though.

     

    From a roleplayer's point of few though its immersion killer.

    Player 1 "Can you believe what happened to that village? We tried to save it, but we failed"

    Player 2 "What are you talking about? It's right there! We did save it..."

    Player 3 "You're both wrong! It was never attacked!"

    Player 4" No no no, theres a castle there"

    Player 5 "anyone else see a giant easter bunny?"

       Suddenly we aren't all playing in a world anymore, just our own little personall version of the world.

     

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  • BurntvetBurntvet Baltimore, MDPosts: 2,940Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Fendel84M
    Originally posted by aphydork

    Personal phasing is far from ideal, but it's necessary if you want to see the world change. It allows you to do things like burn down villages and protect towns and, then, have them stay that way unless you do something otherwise. Nothing ruins immersion like completing an event that has major consequences, only to find the changes are undone as soon as you zone out, relog, or wait 5-10 minutes.

    The Groundhog Day feeling of Guild Wars 2 is definitely there for some people. You can actually make rounds. Kill a major boss that prevents the summoning of their deity, protect the townsfolk here, take back a village there, kill a giant, rescue puppies, and, by the time you rescue the puppies, you can go full circle back to the major boss that has respawned! Protect the townsfolk again, take back the village again, kill the giant, rescue puppies... And people actually did this for hours to get ahead.

    The ability to enter someone else's phase is nice addition, though.

     

    From a roleplayer's point of few though its immersion killer.

    Player 1 "Can you believe what happened to that village? We tried to save it, but we failed"

    Player 2 "What are you talking about? It's right there! We did save it..."

    Player 3 "You're both wrong! It was never attacked!"

    Player 4" No no no, theres a castle there"

    Player 5 "anyone else see a giant easter bunny?"

       Suddenly we aren't all playing in a world anymore, just our own little personall version of the world.

     

    Raph Koster of SWG design fame recently hit on this very point.

    He said in effect that MMOs as originally conceived, are no longer being made.

    What he said was being made are single player games in shared space.

    And we have a perfect example of that right here.

     

     

  • snapfusionsnapfusion San, CAPosts: 954Member
    Originally posted by Xstatic912
    Sorry but if the combat in this is slow, i won't be playing..

    And any word on if its sub base or hybrid F2p, because no matter how good they make it, the mmo market is way too picky to stay long term.. And please don't say look a wow, most of wow members are vets and don't want to let go of there character progression..

    Let me guess, Arcade style combat with lots of flips and spins, awash an epileptic sized load of spell effects all supported by the F2P cash shop model or else your not gonna play.

  • DrakxiiDrakxii Waxahachie, TXPosts: 594Member

    "For MMO players there are also a list of important core elements for any game. Meaningful PvP, strong story, exploration-based content, a variety of gameplay elements, strong social aspects, and of course bringing something new to the genre itself are all very important."

     

    Strong story...  No we want strong well thought out and consistent LORE.

    Strong Social Aspects...  Being able to group with anyone or use facebook while in game is NOT strong social aspects.   The need to work with others in crafting, exploration, and faction pvp is strong social aspects.

    Something new...  Uhh... what are you bring?  No elder scrolls IP does not count.

     

    I will not play a game with a cash shop ever again. A dev job should be to make the game better not make me pay so it sucks less.

  • aphydorkaphydork Boring, ORPosts: 133Member

    Wouldn't things not changing be an immersion killer as well?

    "Oh, we killed the Super Dragon that was terrorizing the land!"

    *Super Dragon flies by*

    *NPCs still talk as if Super Dragon is a problem*

    ...nothing changes.

     

    At least with phased areas, you are with people who are seeing the world as you do, and when you choose to join your friend's phase, you can pickup your RP where he is.

    I mean... how do you deal with Guild Wars 2's system as a roleplayer? Unless nothing happens ever, roleplayers always have to suspend disbelief anyway.

  • jdlamson75jdlamson75 Jacksonville, FLPosts: 984Member Uncommon

    I'll have to admit, I'm a bit more interested in ESO now.  If the combat and lore stay true to the IP, then I'll be more than happy to fork over some money to play it.

     

  • AdamTMAdamTM Frankfurt Am MainPosts: 1,376Member
    Originally posted by aphydork

    Wouldn't things not changing be an immersion killer as well?

    "Oh, we killed the Super Dragon that was terrorizing the land!"

    *Super Dragon flies by*

    *NPCs still talk as if Super Dragon is a problem*

    ...nothing changes.

     

    At least with phased areas, you are with people who are seeing the world as you do, and when you choose to join your friend's phase, you can pickup your RP where he is.

    I mean... how do you deal with Guild Wars 2's system as a roleplayer? Unless nothing happens ever, roleplayers always have to suspend disbelief anyway.

    This is why MMOs in which developers have the control (be it over story, environment or otherwise) will always be the shittiest of both worlds.

    How about some permanency? You kill the emperor? The emperor is dead, for everyone.

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  • Dreamo84Dreamo84 Niagara Falls, NYPosts: 3,437Member Uncommon
    GW2 stuff just keeps happening.

    In real life bank got robbed yesterday, if you're there today and its getting robbed again do you say "boo noo that's fake can't happen again"

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  • muffins89muffins89 Yakima, WAPosts: 1,306Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Burntvet
    Originally posted by Fendel84M
    Originally posted by aphydork

    Personal phasing is far from ideal, but it's necessary if you want to see the world change. It allows you to do things like burn down villages and protect towns and, then, have them stay that way unless you do something otherwise. Nothing ruins immersion like completing an event that has major consequences, only to find the changes are undone as soon as you zone out, relog, or wait 5-10 minutes.

    The Groundhog Day feeling of Guild Wars 2 is definitely there for some people. You can actually make rounds. Kill a major boss that prevents the summoning of their deity, protect the townsfolk here, take back a village there, kill a giant, rescue puppies, and, by the time you rescue the puppies, you can go full circle back to the major boss that has respawned! Protect the townsfolk again, take back the village again, kill the giant, rescue puppies... And people actually did this for hours to get ahead.

    The ability to enter someone else's phase is nice addition, though.

     

    From a roleplayer's point of few though its immersion killer.

    Player 1 "Can you believe what happened to that village? We tried to save it, but we failed"

    Player 2 "What are you talking about? It's right there! We did save it..."

    Player 3 "You're both wrong! It was never attacked!"

    Player 4" No no no, theres a castle there"

    Player 5 "anyone else see a giant easter bunny?"

       Suddenly we aren't all playing in a world anymore, just our own little personall version of the world.

     

    Raph Koster of SWG design fame recently hit on this very point.

    He said in effect that MMOs as originally conceived, are no longer being made.

    What he said was being made are single player games in shared space.

    And we have a perfect example of that right here.

     

     

    yes and no.  with their "megaserver"  people who make the same choices will be phased together.  so the world will be the same.  that may divide some friends,  but there will be an option to join eachother's phase.  there will be a phase where the village is burned down,  one wehre it's overrun by bandits,  and one where it's full of townsfolk.  there idea for the megaserver is to group like minded people together. 

    I think the prostitute mod corrupted your game files man. -elhefen

  • KuinnKuinn MestaPosts: 2,093Member
    Originally posted by AdamTM
    Originally posted by aphydork

    Wouldn't things not changing be an immersion killer as well?

    "Oh, we killed the Super Dragon that was terrorizing the land!"

    *Super Dragon flies by*

    *NPCs still talk as if Super Dragon is a problem*

    ...nothing changes.

     

    At least with phased areas, you are with people who are seeing the world as you do, and when you choose to join your friend's phase, you can pickup your RP where he is.

    I mean... how do you deal with Guild Wars 2's system as a roleplayer? Unless nothing happens ever, roleplayers always have to suspend disbelief anyway.

    This is why MMOs in which developers have the control (be it over story, environment or otherwise) will always be the shittiest of both worlds.

    How about some permanency? You kill the emperor? The emperor is dead, for everyone.

     

    Freedom of choise and permanent consequences across the entire playerbase would mean that after one month of release every forest would be burnt down, every town and city would be in rubbles, every NPC would be dead.

     

    How will a ton of permanent choises and actions work? So the Emperor is dead, forever? The town is in rubbles, forever? In a game like that stuff gets completed fast and then there's nothing left to do except staring at the rubble and burning horizon. That's what happens in singleplayer games, and singleplayer games end when the goals are completed.

  • apocolusterapocoluster newport news, VAPosts: 1,321Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Burntvet
    Originally posted by karmath

    Hoping for "miracle" patches on pre alpha games. I'm speechless.

    I don't believe in miracle patches. Often promised, never seen.

    Zenimax's philosophy is "If we put ES on the box, it will sell."

     

    Even if all of what is mentioned in the article is true, there is still far, far too much missing of what most fans consider "ES gameplay".

     

    Zenimax could etch Elder Scrolls onto a turd and I wouldnt buy it....I would be waiting for hte collectors edition

    No matter how cynical you become, its never enough to keep up - Lily Tomlin

  • BeermanglerBeermangler Cluj NapocaPosts: 397Member

    It would be nice to hear how the stealth mechanics are implemented.

    What happens if you go stealth? Will other players be able to see you? Or thats' only for NPCs?

    Better to be crazy, provided you know what sane is...

  • darkhalf357xdarkhalf357x Brooklyn, NYPosts: 1,164Member Uncommon

    Not a big fan of the combat but willing to wait and see to check it out.  They mention that MMO is more than a game, yet they wont implement housing?  Thats almost a corner stone to an MMO especially if you are expected to play it months on end.  Even the single player console game has housing?

    Hoping they (re)think this and implement in a later expansion/patch.

    In order to implement permanancy, you have to have some type of recycle system.  The person above brought up a good point.  New people joining ESO way after launch will miss those experiences.  If the emperor is truly dead then have a system to 'elect' a new emperor.  This way immersion is in tact but allows the system to reset.

    Outside of that Im ok with the phased approach.  Doesnt break immersion for me.

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  • GrumpyMel2GrumpyMel2 Catskills, NYPosts: 1,832Member
    Originally posted by Kuinn
    Originally posted by AdamTM
    Originally posted by aphydork

    Wouldn't things not changing be an immersion killer as well?

    "Oh, we killed the Super Dragon that was terrorizing the land!"

    *Super Dragon flies by*

    *NPCs still talk as if Super Dragon is a problem*

    ...nothing changes.

     

    At least with phased areas, you are with people who are seeing the world as you do, and when you choose to join your friend's phase, you can pickup your RP where he is.

    I mean... how do you deal with Guild Wars 2's system as a roleplayer? Unless nothing happens ever, roleplayers always have to suspend disbelief anyway.

    This is why MMOs in which developers have the control (be it over story, environment or otherwise) will always be the shittiest of both worlds.

    How about some permanency? You kill the emperor? The emperor is dead, for everyone.

     

    Freedom of choise and permanent consequences across the entire playerbase would mean that after one month of release every forest would be burnt down, every town and city would be in rubbles, every NPC would be dead.

     

    How will a ton of permanent choises and actions work? So the Emperor is dead, forever? The town is in rubbles, forever? In a game like that stuff gets completed fast and then there's nothing left to do except staring at the rubble and burning horizon. That's what happens in singleplayer games, and singleplayer games end when the goals are completed.

    Worked just fine is MUDS/MUSH's.  Thing is in MUDS/MUSH's the GM's were actualy being GM's not glorified customer service reps. They had both the tools and the freedom to constantly change and add to the world in response to the players actions, to constantly run stories/story arcs, inhabit NPC's, spawn monsters, etc and frankly the other PC's were ALOT of the content themselves as the whole point of the game wasn't about completing quest #469 to get your gold star.

    MMO's (with todays technology COULD do this). They would need to be able to do several things...

    - Start off with the principle that the players WERE the content...or at least a large part of it.

    - Design a robust set of mechanisms for the players interacting with the world in meaningfull ways that didn't break the game system and where the game would automaticaly respond to those actions. This would not mean COMPLETE freedom of choice but an extremely wide latitude in choices. For example you wouldn't allow players to build structures ANYWHERE they wanted but you would have a number of predesignated building sites in any given area and allow the players the latitude to choose which ones they wanted to use and which ones they didn't and exactly what would be built there.

    - You would need to design closed-circle systems. In our example above, just as structures could be built by player action so too could they be destroyed by player action or inaction (such as failing to keep up maintenance or defend from monsters). Thus things COULD return to thier origional state...but what state they were in was dependant ENTIRELY upon player ACTION/INACTION....not an an automaticaly recycled timer which was impervious to player behavior.

    - You would need a large enough map for the size of your player base....and you would need tools to add to that map with minimal man-hour investment as needed.

    - You would need excellent tools designed for GM's to change certain aspects of the game-world on the fly without breaking it.....and you would allow the GM's and SUPERVISED volunteers the freedom to perform LIMITED actions (i.e. creating and inhabiting temporary NPC's, spawning temporary monsters, temporarly changing the weather in a zone) in order to run mini-story arcs for the player base.

    - You would need to develop good systems for porceduraly generated content that added dynamism to the world with little or no Developer intervention and allow  players to interact with those systems in limited ways again. For example you could have game/wildlife/monster migrations that varied based upon seasonal patters and that also included some proceduraly driven random variation. You could have players affect those patterns in limited fashions. For example you could have herds of migratory Caribou that went through certain areas in the Spring. You could have predators which followed these herds to prey upon them and the RNG might determine exactly what type distribution those predators were for a particular season (wolves, tigers, griffons, etc). If players were heavly hunting that area you could have the herds/predators dispearse to other areas.....the herds/predators wouldn't be permanently destroyed in response to player action BUT they would shift thier patterns.

    The idea here is that the game doesn't revolve around 1 SPECIFIC pre-scripted story that the character experiences but rather that it's a dynamic, shifting, evolving but SELF-SUSTAINING world. The game shifts it's focus from the character chasing after specific quests to them pursuing self-directed GOALS. It doesn't matter that the Castle of Nod is destroyed and it's Lord slain because SOMETHING is going to move into those ruins, prime lairs don't stay empty for long, creating a DIFFERENT opportunity for adventure....and of those ruins are cleared out and made safe...some OTHER Lord is eventualy going to want to come along and rebuild there....because power abhors a vacume, etc. "The" story doesn't end...because there are no "THE" story...there are just thousands of individual stories that are constantly occuring each day.

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