This month, Elder Scrolls Online is getting another chapter for fans to enjoy – it’s time to return to Morrowind! We threw a few questions at Zenimax Online Studios president, Matt Firor, to find out what fans can look forward to in this new addition to the world.
What kind of feedback did you get from the beta?
Matt Firor: The beta has two distinct parts: the base game updates, changes, and balance tweaks, and then the Morrowind Chapter itself. Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback on the Morrowind stories, setting, and other content, we’re pretty happy with the reaction. Players are genuinely excited to return to Morrowind and appreciate the amount of detail we’ve added to make it feel like a return to a place you know and love.
Warden testing is going well. We’ve made a bunch of changes based on player feedback, and the Warden is shaping up to be a lot of fun to play. In the base game updates, we’ve introduced a number of balance changes, and those are always controversial. We still have a round of changes (based on feedback from tests in the beta) to add in, but we’re happy with how it’s shaping up.
Have you been wanting to add the new class for a while? Was it difficult to balance the Warden against the existing classes?
This is the right time to add a new class. With the excitement of console launch, then a bunch of DLC, we didn’t have a lot of time to add something as major as a new class to the game until now. And yes, the major challenge of adding a new class to a mature online game is to ensure that it plays well with the other classes, is a lot of fun, but doesn’t introduce any balance problems. This has taken a lot of testing – both internal and through the beta – to get right. It has to be fun and balanced.
What incentives do you have for people to try out the new class?
I think the fact that the Warden is nature based – which is unique to ESO – is a major draw for players wanting to try something new. And there’s the war bear, of course. Having a permanent pet ally like the bear is awesome, and will appeal to players who want to play as a druid/ranger archetype.
What were some of the biggest challenges in returning to Vvardenfell?
This is a great question. Our biggest challenge was to give Morrowind a sense of nostalgia for those players who enjoyed Elder Scrolls III, but to make it fun and a great experience for all ESO players, even those who didn’t play the original Morrowind game. I think we’ve done a great job of this – you don’t need to know anything about the original game to have fun in the often crazy, weird, and almost alien landscape that comprises the island of Vvardenfell.
What can fans of the original Morrowind look forward to in this instalment?
Because we’re set about 700 years before Elder Scrolls III, we scattered many references to what is going to happen in the future. You’ll find NPCs that are the ancestors of characters in Elder Scrolls III, for example. Plus, you’ll find that wherever there is a major town in Elder Scrolls III, you’ll find that town or village in ESO: Morrowind, too.
What kind of involvement did you have with Bethesda Game Studios to retain the feel and look of the original?
We’ve worked closely with BGS since the beginning of ESO’s development. For ESO: Morrowind, it was a lot easier. There was so much known about the area and its history thanks to the fact that it shares the same part of the world as Elder Scrolls III. We did have to carefully make sure that we don’t spoil much of the Elder Scrolls III story and, of course, most of the characters in that game are not yet alive in ours. But, there is a lot of continuity, and we worked with BGS to provide easter eggs and call-outs so that players who are familiar with the older title will recognise key characters and situations.
What was the most fun about bringing back such a beloved game?
A lot of us played Elder Scrolls III when it came out and, for the team, it was a great walk down memory lane. Elder Scrolls III was a landmark event in gaming: the first real 3D open world RPG, the first major RPG on console and, of course, the first really big Elder Scrolls game. It’s also one of the most well known settings in Elder Scrolls, so we had a wealth of characters, culture, geography, and the awesomely weird plants and animals that make up Vvardenfell to play with.
What kind of PvP additions can we expect?
ESO: Morrowind introduces our first new major PvP system since we launched the original game: 4v4v4 Battlegrounds. This gives players a very fast, intensive PvP session that is player-balanced to four players per side. Cyrodiil, our open-world PvP system, is awesome, but it is open world and more strategic in nature. Our Battlegrounds are a great complement to Cyrodiil – just jump in for a very fast and focused PvP match, featuring three different maps and three different game types.