As we begin the final beta weekend for The Elder Scrolls Online, ZeniMax Online Studios’ president, Matt Firor, has shared an update about the game’s launch and what’s planned down the road for the game.
In just a few short weeks, we’ll be launching The Elder Scrolls Online for PC and Mac. While it’s been quite a journey to get to this point, ESO’s launch on April 4 is really just the beginning. I want to take a moment to let everyone know what we’ve been doing since my last update and talk about what we’re planning in preparation for launch and beyond.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the 5 million people that have registered for the ESO beta, and likely participated in one of our large beta tests. That’s a wonderfully large number of people who have become part of our ESO community, and it continues to grow. The worldwide interest in ESO has led us to conduct a series of massive “scale” or “stress” betas to prepare for the numbers of players we will have at launch. These tests help us to simulate launch conditions and uncover bugs and other issues. In addition to these scale tests, we’ve had large numbers of players in long-term gameplay testing. Our long-term testing has allowed us to delve more deeply into things like balance, progression, quests, PvP, and high-level 50+, and 50++ content. While we know uncovering bugs can be a frustrating experience for you, every issue that is found and fixed pre-launch helps make the final gameplay experience that much more polished and smoother for everyone. Thank you to all who have participated in these beta tests—your help has been invaluable. Our final PC/Mac scale test will take place this weekend and we hope you’ll join us again.
Some of the things we’ve discovered with your help excite and inspire us – like seeing that 98% of characters created have a unique appearance, or seeing the first Emperor crowned in our epic PvP system – while other findings challenge us to make the game better. Some of the fixes have been more ‘behind the scenes,’ and may go unnoticed like performance optimizations or adjustments to the technical underpinnings of the game. Others will be much more apparent.
While surveys have shown that players really enjoy the game as they progress, particularly after level 10, we heard from some of you that the beginning of the game left you feeling too constrained. The game was originally designed that way so that new players were not overwhelmed, and could learn the game before dealing with more challenging situations. But because ESO is about choice, we made adjustments to those opening hours of the game in response to the beta feedback. After exiting the modified, more streamlined tutorial in Coldharbour, new characters now wake up in the first major city of their respective Alliance as opposed to being forced to go through the starter islands. We’re adjusting the level curve around those cities so that you’ll have plenty to do and discover without running into enemies that are too powerful at the start. If you want to go back and experience these islands (which have been re-leveled to provide a regular content experience) the option is there, but players who prefer can just start exploring the rest of Tamriel.
Another piece of your feedback we’ve implemented addresses our combat system. We continue to identify ways to make melee combat feel even more substantial. In addition to many tweaks and changes to animations and audio, we’ve added player collision with NPCs, which means your character will no longer be able to run through NPC enemies. This is a frequently requested feature that we think succeeds in making melee combat more visceral and exciting.
In addition to gameplay changes, your time in testing also helps us to address and plan for less obvious improvements as well. The worldwide interest in ESO is gratifying but staggering, and each test we run allows us to prepare for a large number of players during our launch phase, and allocate resources as needed. We have constructed large datacenters in North America and in Europe to support this game. North America is fully operational and our European datacenter will be soon, but we have found during our beta tests that the location of these servers is not going to affect the gameplay experience. Our testing has now confirmed that millions of players from Europe (and beyond) can play on our North American server and experience ESO as it was designed—without latency or lag problems. (Please note that users in our last scale test had lag issues, especially in Cyrodiil, but this was a game bug, not a location issue – all players, no matter where, experienced that particular problem). So, regardless of a player’s location or the datacenter being used, the confirmed efficiency of our platform architecture will prevent anyone from enjoying a gameplay advantage. And as both datacenters become fully operational, we will continue to add capacity to meet the demands of gamers worldwide.
We are doing everything that we can to ensure that every player in North America, Europe, Oceania and many places beyond, will have a polished low-latency launch experience. Based on the existing number of our beta signups and because we anticipate that the ESO community will continue to grow after launch, we plan to add capacity to keep up with demand in both our North American and European datacenters. The North American and European megaservers will first be hosted in North America. This gives us a more efficient way to address any platform issues that may arise at launch. After the initial launch phase is over, we will move the European megaserver to the European datacenter – but this will be a seamless migration for users, without additional downloads, logins or action required.
And just to be fully prepared, we are adding overflow servers in the event we get even more players on day one than we are now forecasting. If player demand overwhelms our planned capacity and a queue has to be formed, we will offer waiting players the option to begin playing right away on an overflow server. The overflow server is meant to be a temporary place where you can begin your adventure as you normally would – gain experience, items, achievements, etc. The character you create and everything gained as you temporarily play on an overflow server will transfer back with you when you log in the next time on the main megaserver. While you’ll still be able to group on the overflow servers, other social features like PvP or access to your friends list and guild will be unavailable during that play session – but we want to offer this option to allow players to get into the game quickly, create a character and start to enjoy ESO without delay. This way, you can log in and play, and when the queue shrinks, you can switch to the megaserver and continue to play with the character you created.
These are just some examples of the changes we’ve made as you join our final beta test this weekend. If some of your feedback hasn’t been addressed, it doesn’t mean it was ignored or we felt it unimportant. We are continuing to implement changes and will make adjustments that improve the overall player experience as long as the feedback is coming. That means through launch and beyond.
In addition to continuous pre-launch adjustments, we have been developing lots of additional content for the game. Soon we’ll reveal our first post launch content update, the adventure zone, ‘Craglorn’ which is dedicated to group-based, end-game PvE repeatable content. It’s the start of our commitment to meaningful updates which will be coming shortly after launch and regularly.
We hope that an engaging player experience, compelling content updates, outstanding customer service, and ongoing adjustments in response to player feedback keep you coming back to Tamriel. And as many of you have asked, the answer is yes to one additional benefit – we will offer various subscription discount packs beginning on April 4.
Everyone here at ZeniMax Online Studios is very happy and excited to launch ESO and hope you are pleased by the experience we have worked hard to deliver. My sincere thanks for your continued support, your helpful feedback, and your wonderful enthusiasm. See you online! – Matt