So. What do we know about The Elder Scrolls Online? To be honest, not a whole hell of a lot.
Zenimax has in place one of the most heavily policed Non-Disclosure Agreements that this reporter has ever seen.
According to their NDA, if you are lucky enough to get a key for the Beta, you may not disclose anything relating to “software, software code, designs, graphics, rules, playing strategies, artwork, visual depictions, plot, theme, settings, characters, characterizations, skills, emails, screenshots, marketing emails, marketing and promotional plans, current, future or proposed products or services of ZeniMax, written or printed documents, announcements or pre-releases, product samples, artwork, graphics, promotional and/or marketing items), the Beta Trial forums and other private ZeniMax forums, business and/or trade secrets, testing protocols, processes, and standards relating to the Game and/or associated products or services of ZeniMax.”
Beta testers have been warned that even mentioning they are IN the beta may lead to litigation of some kind. So be careful who you talk to….they have lawyerly spies everywhere! (Or so I have heard) As it stands at the minute, there are a few things that I can confirm.
Pay to Play
The Elder Scrolls Online, in a move that shocked and horrified many, will be launching with the traditional subscription based model that we all grew up with.
When Matt Firor, director of ESO, revealed this back in August it created a storm of tweets the like of which has rarely been seen unless you are casting Ben Affleck as Batman.
Firor told Gamestar “Charging a flat monthly (or subscription) fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make, and the one that fans want to play. Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren’t willing to make,”
I for one applaud the decision to go with the traditional sub model. For a franchise as dear to the hearts of gamers as the Elder Scrolls, it would seem safe to assume that this game would be successful no matter what way payments were implemented. Having a “flat” payment structure of buy the box, thirty days free and a monthly sub thereafter for everyone ensures a level playing field for all, with no “ghettoization” of free players as you have no doubt seen in other games, The Old Republic being a prime example of this practice.
While many of the “Triple A” MMOs of recent years may have launched with a subscription based payment system, they quickly switched to offering “tiered” access via traditional and free-to-play options.
Making the subscription worthwhile is going to be the real test for Zenimax here. Many games have failed simply because they were unable to generate the long-term interest of players. If ESO is to succeed with this payment model, they need to ensure new content comes at regular intervals if the want to keep their player numbers up beyond the first thirty days.
They have publicly stated “We are already working on content that will roll out to players after ESO’s launch. New quest lines, skills, zones, dungeons -are already in the pipeline. These things, in addition to our end-game content, PvP, and extraordinary customer service, are all part of making sure we’re delivering on that premium service – and that the player feels like they are getting their money’s worth. We won’t know the exact schedule until after ESO launches, but our target right now is to have new content available every four to six weeks.” Time will tell.
The Birth of Giant Fat Khajit Mohawk Girl!
Did you watch the video? Good. So, what will your character look like then? As with Skyrim, the character creation options in Elder Scrolls Online are seemingly limitless, offering incredibly flexible customization options in race, height and weight, hair, face, tattoos, etc.
While character customization is par for the course in all MMOs, the Elder Scrolls Online seems to have grasped the importance of putting in as many options as possible to ensure you do not feel like a simple copy of the guy that spawns beside you in the Starter Zone.
A Classless Society
In the previous installments of the Elder Scrolls your character was very much free to design the class you wanted as you leveled up and access multiple weapons and skill types as you progressed.
The system in Skyrim allowed players to build healer tank archers and spell casting, axe wielding, blacksmithing damage dealers of the highest quality.
In Elder Scrolls Online, each player will be given the choice of four initial classes
- Templar – Similar to a Paladin in other games, combined magical damage dealer and healer.
- Dragon Knight – A combination of damage dealer, crowd controller and tank. A multipurpose character.
- Sorcerer – Does exactly what it says on the tin, a mage class summoner type with crowd control and lightning damage spells.
- Nightblade – The assassin of the Elder Scrolls Online world. Combine stealth attacks with damage over time spells and self heals.
Each of these classes is a “template” of sorts and the triple skill trees for each class allows a huge amount of customisation and individuality for players. Each of the classes carries a default weapon set-up, but again, the customisation allows you to spec into different weapons as you please.
Three Sides to Every Story
Horde vs Alliance? Sith vs Jedi? Chaos vs Empire? Not for this game, three factions are the way to go! The Elder Scrolls Online allows players to choose from three factions;
- The Ebonheart Pact – Nords, Dunmer, and Argonians.
- The Aldmeri -Altmer, Bosmer, and Khajiit
- The Daggerfall Covenant -Bretons, Redguards, and Orcs
Three faction PvP always makes for a more interesting dynamic in game and, given the size of the map we have thus far seen, will make the game world seem that little bit more “real”. And speaking of the map…
It’s in Tamriel!
Kind of a no-brainer here, but the game world will encompass the entirety of Tamriel, rather than the individual continents we have seen in the previous, single-player installments of the franchise.
Zenimax have stated in the past that Elder Scrolls Online is basically the equivalent of The Elder Scrolls Volumes Six, Seven and Eight. As someone who spent very close to three hundred hours roaming the dungeons and frozen wastes of Skyrim, one can only hope that these projections hold true.
In the recently released game world map, we can see the home “countries” of the three playable factions and, in the centre, the PvP area of Cyrodil. This map is going to be updated with more information and areas as we draw closer to release. And that would neatly lead us to…..
They have recently announced the release date to be 04.04.2014! The conspiracy theorists out there have wailed and gnashed their teeth over this as the delay has (allegedly) been caused by the cross platform release planned for the game. The Elder Scrolls bears a heavy weight on its shoulders here. If the game is released too early, people will complain. If too late, the same result.
Being the first major “next Gen” MMO on multiple platforms is a huge undertaking for Zenimax. Many of the other major MMOs have been rumored to be following suit, hitting the new consoles, Mac and PC but none have confirmed or denied these rumors as yet.
ZeniMax have also confirmed that the console versions will be, understandably, different from their “desktop” counterparts. These differences will be mainly down to UI alterations. As we have seen in the likes of DCUO, which has the same basic interface for both PS3 and PC, trying to shoehorn UI restrictions on to a PC version because of the restrictions of a console controller can leave players used to traditional mouse and keyboard set-ups a little underwhelmed.
For those of you thinking of trying out the Xbox One or PS4 versions, be sure to check the “System” field on the Beta Sign-Up page to access the beta test on your console of choice.
All the news that’s fit to print. So far anyway. As the closed Beta process rolls on, and now that the new line of consoles has been released, we can hope that ZeniMax will be releasing more news and information sooner rather than later. The secrecy surrounding the current closed Beta is extremely high but, with the tentative release date of April 2014 in mind, we can assume that Open Beta would likely start in February or march of next year. Bear in mind, though, that the multi-platform release planned COULD delay things a little. I am sure that ZeniMax will not rush this product out the door until they are sure they are ready.
Without any feedback available (officially) on the current state of the game client, it is hard to accurately predict just how far off ESO is from Open Beta. The only thing I can confirm 100% is that I cannot wait to get into this world. 290 odd hours in Skyrim. 180ish in Oblivion. I kinda get the feeling I’d better lay in supplies for the long summer ahead.
See you in Cyrodil!