Greetings TF community, I’m writing from Baltimore, Maryland outside the ZeniMax offices where their first ever “guild summit” will be getting underway in just a couple hours. As revealed on the most recent episode of ESO Live, the studio has graciously invited the leadership of roughly 20 guilds and online communities to visit them for two days of presentations and round-table discussions about the current state of the game as well as the ambitious plans for future expansion that are already underway. The next 48 hours are certain to be interesting and fortunately for the community there is no NDA or press embargo associated with this event.
I’ll be updating this post periodically over the course of the weekend to share the most interesting details, whether they are big announcements or simply developer insights into current issues. Be sure to keep an eye on this page for updates!
Day One Schedule:
- Combat Responsiveness
- Crafting and Collections
- Champion System
Our first presentation for the day was led by Jared Carr, ESO art director and various members of the art and animation team. They focused on highlighting both the current state of game animations as well as future enhancements that are already underway. The presenters emphasized their work on improving the general combat experience, animation, and flow of combat.
The team highlighted their goals to improve the recognizability of character and weapon silhouettes, enhance the visual information that players have about what happening with their character’s actions, smoothing animation flow, and clearly communicating attack windows. The team has developed new and much improved weapon attack animations that flow much more smoothly during combat. The video showcased the following:
- clear, but natural pauses indicating next attack opportunity
- feel of weight behind swings
- visual point of “resistance” on impact
- dual wield looks the most improved of the three melee choices
- flow of staff attacks and channels, unique stances and animation variations for each staff type
- lightning based heavy attack looks cool, obvious when you don’t have a target
- there’s still work to do on improving flow with mixing in abilities
Particle Effects and Weapon Swap Timing
- These systems were recently added to the live game, but still room for improvement.
- Particle culling is currently prioritized by range slider, but possibility of culling on alternative criteria like effect type priority.
Combat Animation Questions:
Regarding the performance impact of new graphical and particle behaviors:
Some ZOS designers shared a few performance enhancement suggestions: close your patcher while playing, disable hardware acceleration in open web browsers, make sure to update video drivers, disable any addons to verify the lag/crashes occur in the base client.
The role of animation canceling:
Animation and attack priority is currently driven by gameplay mechanics, and animation design is created to support the gameplay features. Animation cancelling with macro usage is “cheating”, but the way that attacks currently interact is intended, but will hopefully be improved in the future.
The role of blocking and block priority, the current meta of permanently blocking while using abilities:
Blocking is the most important and/or significant action that players can take in-combat, but currently the prioritization system and the way that blocking interacts with ability usage is something that ZeniMax are looking into improving soon.
Feedback and cues while using 1st person perspective:
ZOS is working to greatly improve the information presented to players while in first person perspective to make this view more feasible to use.
Potential relaxation of API restrictions for player feedback:
There are a lot of considerations involved in loosening the API, because the biggest priority is to prevent their potential exploitation by malicious addons or third party programs. ZOS is working on identifying the biggest deficiencies of the default UI and considering alternative ways to improve them.
Possibility of increasing the bass in combat audio, particularly to indicate heavier hits or more significant sources of damage. Currently ESO is very “treble” compared to other action-combat games:
They will get the audio guys on it.
The systems team, lead by Phil Draven discussed some of the upcoming changes to game systems, which largely involve world interactivity, player activities, and guilds.
- Crafting tutorials will be much more helpful and informative for new crafters.
- Crafting writs are crafting quests to create resources and deliver them to a location in need throughout the world. Rewards from these quests will feed back into your tradeskill, by granting inspiration, craft materials, and a new item, survey reports. These reports are similar to treasure maps and point towards resource caches that contain private are high-yield versions of the normal nodes.
- New crafting style Dwemer coming very soon. The Dwemer style will now be learned in chapters (epic drop) as well as in much more rare complete books (legendary drop). These styles will be obtained from Dwemer ruins.
- The materials to make Dwemer equipment will come from salvaging Dwemer constructs and then refining the raw scraps.
- 9-trait item set, “The Twice Born Star” coming in Update 5. The crafting station is in Upper Craglorn
- (2 piece) Increased Health
- (3 piece) Increased Stamina
- (4 piece) Increased Magicka
- (5 piece) Allows the player to activate two Mundus Stone boons simultaneously. (devs confirmed Divines bonus works for both buffs)
- New crafting style Xivkyn, aka “Imperial Daedric” associated with the Imperial City coming further in the future.
- Converting the existing system including ingredients and recipes to a system that works more intelligently with the objects that exist within the world. Instead of getting drippings from a crate, you might get flour from a sack of flour, or grain from a bushel of wheat.
- Reducing the number of ingredient items by 50%, less inventory strain.
- No more alliance specific ingredients or recipes.
- Recipes will drop based on zone, not character level.
- All ingredients are level-agnostic.
- Add VR10 recipes.
- Easier to know where to get the type of ingredients you need to make recipes. If you need apples, you can go loot a basket of apples.
- Ingredient types: meats, fruit, vegetables, additives, alcohol, tea, and tonics. Each ingredient type will come from a clearly defined and predictable source.
- Recipes being revamped, once the change goes live you will still know all your recipes, but they may change name. Recipes will stay the same quality, but may change slightly in level.
- Players are able to scale dungeons
- Dungeon pledges (dailies) through the undaunted guild which give bronze, silver, or gold chest keys which are awarded depending on how effectively the player completed the pledge. Higher tier chests have higher tier possible rewards.
- For example, for non-veteran dungeons: a bronze pledge would involve killing the 3 main bosses of each dungeon, but an optional step involves killing all the mini-bosses or optional bosses. For veteran pledges, getting the gold tier key might involve completing the challenge in a certain time limit, or under certain restrictions.
- Pledges can be done for non-veteran and veteran versions, so players can do pledges of each variety every day.
- Adding systems to offload vanity pets, costumes, mounts, and trinkets out of physical inventory space to allow players to enjoy the use of collectibles without hogging their inventory space.
- The new collections interface allows you to manage collectible trinkets, costumes, vanity pets, and mounts all from the same interface. The dev team showed a UI mockup which looked really nice.
Brand New Systems
- Adding glass armor and weapons, ZOS not saying whether it will exist as a style or a material type.
- Spellcrafting, Poisonmaking, Jewelrycrafting
- Mount Racing
- Continued effort in populating the world (which the devs jokingly term “Clickyville”) with further opportunities for player interaction.
- The provisioning revamp integrates cleanly with the goals of world interactivity to make things more intelligent and natural. There will be over 80 types of provisioner clickables which will give ingredients.
- Addition of soul gem and money pile clickables.
- Provisioner clickables now make sense, no more aged meat out of a bag of green beans.
- New dye colors including Sigil Orange.
Systems Design Questions
Possibility of scaling players to dungeon rather than scaling dungeons themselves.
The short answer is that scaling works a lot more effectively when it comes to scaling the power of enemies than scaling the power of players.
Possible incorporation of more vibrant yellow, red, and orange dye colors.
Dyes have to be consistent with the color pallette of the game, and should be drawn from colors that appear on NPCs throughout the game.
The possibility of a better “preview” system that more accurately represents how the dye will look on your character for achievements you have not unlocked yet.
During the design phase of the dye system, this was a need that the devs wanted to address, but part of this unpredictability of colors is due to how different material types render the same color in slightly different ways. A true preview system is on the wishlist to do, but doesn’t have a firm schedule yet.
Possibility of players being able to move items within the world?
It’s something they are considering and discussing internally, but no plans to do that anytime soon. If they did do it, it would probably be changes that are only rendered client side that don’t propagate to other players.
Ability to design shields?
They recognize that it’s a hole in the current system, but it’s something they hope to add into the dye system in the future once development time becomes available to do it.
The potential for “lottery drops” in terms of collectibles or crafting materials:
The devs want there to be more predictable methods for players to earn or obtain what they are trying to acquire, so they didn’t sound very positive about the potential for ultra-rare world drops in this context.
Potential for adding Nirncrux to Cyrodiil crafting nodes as a way to both make that component more accessible as well as improve the mechanical risk/reward structure of harvesting in Cyrodiil.
The issue has definitely come up, but Nirncrux is thematically tied to the story of Upper Craglorn. The devs hope to come up with some other means of improving the systems of harvesting crafting materials in Cyrodiil.
Resolving the conflict between costumes and guild tabards:
Conversations are underway internally regarding the best way to resolve this when the new collectibles system gets implemented.
The feasibility of both food and drink buffs simultaneously.
This is an issue that gameplay is looking into, but there are concerns about the balance implications of using both. The concern that very few people use drinks is certainly valid and one that the crafting team hopes to solve.
Using caught fish in provisioning recipes that require fish?
Yes! New provisioning recipes which use fish in cooking will utilize fish that you catch using Fishing!
Possible achievement or better reward structure for collecting all the Mages’ Guild books?
The devs seemed surprised to hear there wasn’t one, and said they would add it to their log to put in asap!
AvA and Imperial City
Brian Wheeler is up next with the PvP team who handles content and rules in PvP zones including keeps, objectives, alliance points, etc… He would especially like to remind folks that his team does not handle abilities, items, general gameplay, or PvE related issues. He and his team follow the forums closely and has, in the past, both made changes and reverted made changes based on player feedback.
Coming up in Update 5
- Minimum rank requirement to purchase Forward Camps
- Buffs will be local to the campaign only for PvP only, they are still considering how to handle buffs for PvE
- Anti-tunneling boundaries and ways to block exploits where players wiggle through terrain objects and get underneath the world.
- Oil pot adjustments, they are aware of the ways that pots are currently used and adjustments will be made to enforce a minimum pour distance or some other control.
- Elder Scroll bonus changes
- Population imbalance adjustments
- Crashes both client and server-side
- Spirit of the game “antics”, spies, trolls, guesting issues
The city is basically just a PvE zone with PvP.
- The sewers – super large public dungeon
- Districts – contain capture locations with PvE events
- Difficulty is tuned for 1-2 players at high level
- Each campaign has their own Imperial City
- All 3 sides will potentially have access at the same time.
- Access is gated by controlling your 6 home keeps – making defending and home security more important.
- The population cap is shared between Cyrodiil and the Imperial City, so as one side floods into the city, their power in Cyrodiil itself will wane allowing other alliances to retake less defended objectives.
What’s Inside the City?
- Districts: Temple, Elven Gardens, Market, Arena
- New armor sets + the new Xivkyn crafting style
- 6 new 8 hour Buffs from the Divines – these are similar to Mundus Stone buffs, but temporary. They are AoE beneficial, so if you have a buff it will affect all your nearby allies as well.
- Lots of enemies to kill, get money, exp, loot.
- White Gold Tower itself will not be initially accessible.
At this point, Brian showed a live gameplay demo running through some of the areas of the sewers and the city itself. Sewer respawn point is a “safe zone”, you drop off a ledge into the water below to join the action. Anchor pinions in city districts have 3 sigils which control it. Deactivating a pinion Sigil involves a brief sojourn into Coldharbour to defeat some of Molag Bal’s minions. Each of the pinion Sigils have a beam indicating their current control status, to capture the entire district your alliance needs to control all 3 Sigils. When the anchor control switches from Molag Bal to one of the player alliances the anchor is replaced with a small war-camp belonging to the controlling alliance, and players are able to respawn in the controlled district on a “safe” elevated platform.
The arena district contains a wave-event similar to Dragonstar Arena, but with certain alternative mechanics because it is a public and PvP-open event. Rewards from the arena event are awarded to the group that earns the kill on the final boss, so PvP can certainly play a role in earning these rewards.
Can resources be made more strategically valuable?
They have discussed this internally in terms of having the resources have a bigger impact on the strength of the keeps that they are associated with.
Will Emperorship ever be a reflection of true “leadership” rather than pure rankings?
This was discussed pre-launch, but the best call for launch ended up being to go with the leaderboard based option.
Separating siege items in Cyrodiil from the potion/food quickslot menu?
Brian will bring it up with the UI folks.
Possibility of increasing the radius of defense ticks?
This varies on a keep-by-keep basis based on where the resources are next to them. The areas would need to be “re-painted” which could be problematic if the larger areas collide with the defense areas of the resource nodes.
Forward Camps, their role in Cyrodiil, how they are being changed?
They are nerfing them first, and possibly removing them later.
Alliance Point progression and their role in character development. How will AvA contribute to character depth, additional skills, gear in the future.
Basically, there are no plans currently to expand the role of AP and AvA progression.
What is the incentive to owning all the Imperial City districts, are there large end bosses of the districts or in the sewers?
There’s not a huge incentive to owning the IC districts at the moment other than having access to the respawn point. They are looking into options of how to better reward the alliance that controls each district. Access to crafting set stations and other amenities might be access gated.
Player motivation for participating in the Imperial City vs. Cyrodiil proper? What rewards are there for players? What about alliance ranks after 24?
They are looking into expanding the alliance skill lines to include additional abilities as well as possible alliance rank dependent tiers of gear, but there is some concern that this approach would be too elitist favoring hardcore PvPers too much.
Will they add new ways to level up quickly to PvP?
XP has been tweaked up for player kills to 4x monster kills, the daily kill quest was changed because of the way players were gaming the system. All of the experience you can gain within the Imperial City is set to a high multiplier.
Do siege weapons work in the IC/Sewers?
No, these are for mainland Cyrodiil only.
Exploitation, emperor farming, lag, disconnects, and crashes in Cyrodiil have frustrated a lot of players into quitting the game. How are you working to address these issues and handle them quickly as they emerge in the future?
A lot of time when we (ZOS) see those behaviors they try to take private (not public) action to correct them. Hopefully improved channels of communication with player groups can help identify these problems faster in the future.
Possibility of dynamic population locks to try to keep the three sides more even?
They have talked about doing some stuff like that but no plans are currently in place.
Improving the single-player PvP experience, ganking supply lines, checking out quest hubs, dungeons, etc.. How do you plan to address this, and how do you see the Imperial City affecting this.
There aren’t any specific plans to add single-player only content at this time, but hopefully they can address that player group in the future.
Champion System and Future Veteran Experience
At this point Paul Sage took over assisted by Maria Aliprando to discuss the future roll of veteran systems and advancement with the new Champion System.
The Champion System
We can’t just put the Champion System on top of the current advancement system. -Paul Sage
ZOS has to balance making players stronger with providing an ample challenge to players. This means a complete re-balance of game and ability mechanics is necessary. Current granularity of stats does not fit well with the addition of small percentage bonuses. Adding a 1% bonus on top of a base level of 40 isn’t meaningful to the player. Simply adding points to soft-capped abilities would be bad.
Benefits of the Current Systems
- Helps to prevent “bad builds”
- Freedom of how to play – allows players to go over limits
Problems with the Current System
- Trade-offs are not pronounced
- Too easy to hit soft caps
- Balance is harder
- All your character’s stats, attributes, and damage values will be multiplied by 10 (for example, a Health of 2,500 would become a Health of 25,000). This will allow small percentage bonuses to realize a visible impact on your character’s stat lines.
- Soft caps are being removed entirely.
- Impose some limits – for example, Armor (Physical resistance) caps out at 50% mitigation. On live right now, this would equate to roughly 3,000 armor.
- Each source of benefit to a certain stat has it’s own caps. For example, buffs, equipment, traits, and more will each have their own independent maxima to contributing towards the overall limit.
- Once these changes are in place, the numbers in abilities, items, enchantments, weapons, etc… will all need to be changed.
- Compute rate limits (DPS and damage prevention)
- Adjust NPC and monster stats and abilities
What does this mean?
- You’ll have to make commitments to be the best in a particular area.
- More varied builds, better interdependence between builds.
- Some abilities will have to change, i.e. armor buffs won’t stack
- Itemization will be much more important.
- The dynamics of combat will change, particularly at max-level.
System Rebalance Questions
How will the de-composition of stat caps vary by class which have access to different ranges of buff abilities?
The composition of the cap composition will not change by class, so it will not be possible for everyone to max out everything. Certain classes may have a slight advantage at reaching the theoretical maximum in certain areas.
When might we see this?
“When it’s ready”. It’s too hard to put a firm date on this right now given the scope of these changes.
How will more casual players react to the scope of these changes?
We hope that the way these changes are constructed will make character construction feel more meaningful and significant, so some things will be different, for example light armor wearers will probably feel a bit more squishy in the new system, but by the same token heavy armor will feel more significant. The changes are making trade-offs more meaningful.
What kind of challenges will this system involve for educating players on where their stats are coming from and helping them understand how the new system works without having to show them a PowerPoint presentation?
The reality is that most players don’t really care too much, and they simply trust that their stats are adding naturally. This will actually be a fairly natural system since the caps in place prevent you from ever getting “too much” of a certain stat.
Maria Aliprando took over diving into the details of the champion system, a new account-wide system that allows your characters to evolve and progress past level 50. You spend champion points in nine constellations. All characters on your account get the benefits you have earned, but your points can be spent on a per-character basis.
- Champion experience is earned through regular XP, so it’s very transparent and the system makes sense.
- Earned veteran ranks will convert into champion XP, but there will be a maximum on the amount that will be allowed to convert.
- All characters on your account get the benefits you have earned.
- You will be able to respec your choices regarding how you spend the champion points.
- Update 5 will reduce the passive stat boosts from veteran ranks, but grant attribute and skill points for the player to choose how to spend.
The champion system will be introduced later on, and at first both the Champion and Veteran systems will co-exist for a short time, with the ultimate goal of replacing Veteran entirely. In update 5, Veteran Ranks will be converted from VP to XP, so experience points will be the currency for character advancement throughout.
You will spend your champion points in any of 9 constellations:
- Health (Warrior, Lord, and Lady)
- Magicka (Mage, Ritual, and Atronach)
- Stamina (Tower, Lover, and Thief)
Each time you spend a champion point, the constellation “rotates” and you must spend your next champion point in a tree belonging to the next type. This doesn’t force you into a particular gameplay style, however, as there are nodes relevant to every possible playstyle in each of the three constellation branches.
Each constellation has certain passive bonuses that you will unlock once you have invested a threshold number of points into that constellation. For example, putting 10+ points into the Atronach constellation gives you an additional bonus named “Merchant’s Favor”. If you spend 100 points in The Lord constellation you earn Last Stand, which grants increased ultimate when you fall below 20% Health. There are special passive unlocks at 10, 20, 30, 50, and 100 point investments.
The bonuses themselves are minor in isolation, but collectively will make a significant difference to your character. For example, Stout in the Warrior tree reduces the duration which the player is stunned.
Each individual Champion bonus can have up to 700 champion points applied to it:
We envision it will take you about an hour to earn a champion point – Paul Sage
A big concern of the champion system is to prevent it from creating a huge separation between players who have earned a lot of champion points and those who have not, both in terms of power and in terms of potential.
- Champion points are more meaningful in the beginning of the system – the value of each champion point degrades as you invest further into a specific skill. For example, the first point you spend in Light Armor gives you a +1.0% bonus to armor, but the 40th point only gives you +0.1%.
- This encourages players to diversify their points towards the beginning of earning Champion points.
- This prevents players who come late to the system from being irrecoverably far behind veteran players.
- There is a new system, called Enlightenment, which boosts the experience earned towards a champion point. Your account accumulates Enlightenment as long as you have a level 50 character. This prevents there from being a penalty from playing low-level alts. Your level 50 main will earn Enlightment during that time. Additionally, this will help out players who don’t have as many hours per day to play ESO. Taking time away from doing XP granting activities to craft, roleplay, or just hang out won’t penalize you too much because you will earn Enlightenment during that time helping you get your next champion points more quickly. Seems like it functions similarly to “rested XP” in other games.
Champion System Questions
How do you plan to handle content gating using the new system and how players will know which tier of endgame content is appropriate for them?
The details of this are still being brainstormed, but some ideas that might happen include some sort of “champion rating”, increased character levels, or some other sort of indication to the player as to what they should be working on.
With this paradigm shift to a more horizontal based progression system, what are the implications for Cadwell’s gold/silver as well as the vertical progression structure which currently exists in veteran dungeons and trials?
We (ZOS) are leaning heavily towards getting rid of the barrier between gold/silver content and giving the player the choice at 50 to tackle that content in any order they choose. As for veteran dungeons, these will be able to be scaled to your party’s desired level. In terms of trails, we’ll be sticking with a vertical progression model in terms of trial difficulty and itemization, but trying to keep an easier on-ramp for players wanting to get started.
What is your stance on the visibility of champion levels, do you want a character’s champion progress to be public knowledge?
We’re playing with different sets of iconography to represent a character’s Champion achievement visually within the UI. There’s a lot of potential also for Champion Ratings as a composite statistic based both on their champion rating as well as the attribute levels of an enemy.