Hey Foundry fans, I know many of you have been waiting eagerly for an update from PAX Prime. I’ve finally gotten myself a bit of downtime to put together some coverage for you all. To get started, allow me to say that PAX is pretty crazy, the number of fans that pack into the Washington State Convention center is quite unbelievable. The booths are very impressive this year, and Bethesda in particular has a very large setup; showcasing both ZeniMax Online’s The Elder Scrolls Online and the next chapter in the venerated WW2 shooter series; Wolfenstein: The New Order. Most of the Bethesda booth, however, is dedicated to ESO, and many fans bull-rushed the booth as soon as the exhibition floor opened in the mornings. These enthusiastic con-goers braved waits of over three hours in order to get a chance to play The Elder Scrolls Online for 20 minutes! ZOS had around 30 computers running a off a local server and they rotated players through to give them a glimpse of the game.
The Future of Online Gaming Panel
Compared to other recent conventions, ESO‘s presence at Pax Prime has been slightly subdued. I think many of the developers have been feeling the strain of constant travel for conventions and press events, and having been present in force at Gamescom in Germany last weekend, several devs including Matt Firor did not make the trip out to Seattle. Paul Sage took the reins, and was one of the featured panelists on MMORPG’s bi-annual “The Future of Online Gaming” panel. He was joined by game directors on the big upcoming titles of Wildstar, EverQuest Next, Firefall, and Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade. The group provoked some lively banter, and touched on key topics ranging from the evolving role of sandbox elements in modern MMOs, the arguments for and against trinity mechanics in gameplay design, and the projected impact of the next generation consoles on the MMO market. A video replay has not yet been made available by mmorpg.com, but once one is posted I will add an embed to this article, so check back for a link to re-watch the full panel! (The audio in this version is a bit bad, I think they are trying to get a better quality one uploaded, but for now…)
The ESO Food Truck
While I’m sure many of you will groan that the food truck continues to be deemed “newsworthy”, I think it was a nice gesture and an effective piece of marketing by ZeniMax. The truck was set up in a accessible parking lot just across from the convention’s main theater. It served food for 4 hours, and featured an enormous line for the entire duration. Since it was outside the bounds of the con itself, it allowed for both gamers and passers-by to learn about ESO and garner some postive vibes from eating the delicious free food. You could chat with devs and community team members, get some free swag, and hang out while you waited for your shot at the truck. As for me… I didn’t want to wait for over an hour to eat lunch, so I just scoped the truck out and moved on.
Hanging out at the ZOS Booth
We had plenty of time to hang out at the ZeniMax booth and chat with developers, a lot of this conversation revolved around how the game has been progressing and how fans have reacted to some of the more recent developments. It sounds like their internal testing of the game is progressing smoothly, and they have made some impressive sounding strides towards improving the stability of their servers, which have recently started using their new data-center which will power the megaserver at launch. It’s often the technical underpinnings of MMOs which cause the biggest problems with the game, yet the technicians and engineers tend to garner little credit when things go right. We also mingled with some fans who were both waiting to play, and also had just finished with their demo. The reactions were largely positive, with players seeming to develop an instant familiarity with the game due to it’s resemblance and commonalities with past TES games. Maria Aliprando and Brian Wheeler were answering fan questions, and I was also able to record a video interview with Creative Director, Paul Sage which you can look forward to seeing in the next couple of days. Also, we have some helpful gameplay notes from our hands-on session that we’ll be sharing in the coming week in a more focused article. At this point, it looks unlikely that there will be any major ESO announcements at PAX Prime, but regardless we’ll be on hand for the next two days to give the fan community any updates as we can share them! I’ll definitely have an “AUA”-style thread later in the week where I’ll gladly field any PAX questions, but please feel free to post any questions you have in the comments below, and I will try to answer as many as I can.