The Elder Scrolls Online Creative Director Talks Oblivion, Companions, and Deadlands
The Elder Scrolls Online is set to conclude its year-long Oblivion-centric campaign with the release of The Elder Scrolls Online: Deadlands in November. Ahead of the release of the final DLC for 2021 next month, ComicBook.com had the opportunity to pick the brain of The Elder Scrolls Online Creative Director Rich Lambert all about the game's releases this year, companions, and the new Deadlands DLC.
If you are not already familiar, Deadlands is set to feature several new areas like the Burn, The Sever, and the huge city of Fargrave. In general, players will explore the new zones to stop Dagon's plans and prevent him from ruling Nirn. According to the initial announcement, the developer expects Deadlands to take roughly 20 hours for folks to complete.
In general, The Elder Scrolls Online itself is currently available for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Google Stadia. As noted above, the latest expansion DLC, The Elder Scrolls Online: Deadlands, is set to release on November 1st for PC, Mac, and Google Stadia and for console players on November 16th. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the popular MMORPG right here.
Have you been playing The Elder Scrolls Online recently? What do you make of this past year's changes to the title? Let us know in the comments, or feel free to reach out and hit me up directly over on Twitter at @rollinbishop to talk about all things gaming! And keep reading to check out our full interview with The Elder Scrolls Online Creative Director Rich Lambert!
On the Appeal of Oblivion
ComicBook.com: What is it about Oblivion that appeals to so many folks, do you think? Even compared to other parts of the franchise, Oblivion seems largely above the rest in terms of response from fans.
Rich Lambert: That's a good question and I think one that has many different answers to it depending on who you ask. The thing that really appeals to me is Dagon. They don't hide who they are or any of their intentions. It's simple and easy to understand their motivations. Add that to a familiar setting – fire and brimstone of hell, so to speak, and you have something that really resonates with people.
Also, don't count out the sentimental side of things. For many folks Oblivion was their first introduction to the Elder Scrolls universe, so being able to revisit that and see what Oblivion looked like almost 1000 years before is intriguing.prevnext
On the Introduction of Companions
What are some of the things the team learned with the introduction of Companions to Elder Scrolls Online? It feels like such a major change.
Companions are something we've wanted to put into ESO for years – as an online game, having an adventuring buddy always at your side is amazing.
We wanted companions to help players explore the world, and to also give them more access to some group-based content at their own pace. Player reaction has been amazing to them thus far.
In terms of lessons learned, there's been a lot – one of the biggest has been on the performance side of things. We were initially really worried about everyone in game essentially being worth "2 players – player + companion". While it's been a concern we've followed closely, all of the work the team did on the performance side of things has really paid off and performance has been largely a non-issue with companions.prevnext
On the Future of Companions
Speaking of what the team learned, can you talk about what sort of plans there are for Companions in the future?
I can't get into all the things we're planning, but one thing I will say is that we know everyone wants to be able to romance their companions. It would be a pretty big miss on our part if we don't deliver on that at some point in the future.prevnext
On What Sets Elder Scrolls Online Apart
What is it about Elder Scrolls Online that sets it apart from other MMOs? That keeps players coming back? Obviously, Amazon's New World is very successful right out of the gate, but these sorts of video games don't always have the staying power that Elder Scrolls Online has had so far.
There's a number of reasons – I could go on for pages and pages for this one. If I were to distill it down to a few major points though, they would be:
There are no arbitrary level gates preventing you from exploring the world. You can just pick a direction and go explore.
You don't have to grind through years of older content just to get to the new stuff – you can jump into whatever story interests you at any time.
ESO is extremely easy to play with others – you can play with anyone regardless of level or alliance choice. A new player and a max level player can group up from day 1 and make meaningful progress.
Classes don't force you into specific roles – every class can do any role and use any armor or weapon type. This, coupled with the fact any "mistakes" you make with a build or character setup are very easy to undo, makes experimenting really fun and easy.
On Handling Player Feedback
Speaking of players, what's your take on feedback from fans? Increasingly, we've seen fandoms wield their influence in both positive and negative ways with online video games.
ESO wouldn't be where it is today if it wasn't for our community. It's their feedback and support that's helped shape the game over the years.
Player feedback is hard. Some of it is positive, some negative – much of it is contradictory. One group wants things one way, another wants it the opposite way. That makes it hard most times to narrow down the core issue being discussed. As a developer its extremely important that you take a step back and actually listen. People in general don't complain about a thing unless they are passionate about it and want to see it be better. Once you realize that, it makes the feedback loop a bit easier to deal with.
It's also important that you use everything available to you to make your decisions. Player feedback alone isn't enough. You need internal data gathered from analytics and your own personal experiences playing the game, in addition to player feedback, to make meaningful improvements to designs and the game overall.prevnext
On Streaming Your Own Game
Additionally, I know you have started to stream your own game on the regular these past couple of months. Do you think that's a valuable point of engagement that more folks in your position should do, or is it just something you've enjoyed?
I've always interacted with the community to some degree over the years – be it forums, social media or lurking in streamer chats. Me streaming has taken that level of interaction in a whole new direction, and I've enjoyed the heck out of it. People can jump into chat, see that I actually play the game (gasp, a dev playing their own game) and see that there's a real person on the other end of the keyboard who loves the game as much as they do.
Streaming is hard… like really hard. You are constantly juggling things – you have to focus on chat and interact all while playing a game that takes a ton of attention. As a developer I've found it's even harder because you have the additional pressures of representing an entire team of folks, not just yourself. There's a delicate balance of what can and can't be talked about – something that isn't easy to do. I've learned a ton over the past few months and have a newfound respect for all the streamers out there – a lot of them make it look easy and it's not.prevnext
On Personal Favorites
When you personally play Elder Scrolls Online, what is it that you're most drawn to?
I'm a power gamer and love optimization and collecting gear. My favorite piece of content in the game is Maelstrom Arena as I love that I'm competing against myself - chasing leaderboard times and finding new ways to improve in my pursuit to beat my best scores.prevnext
On the Recent Changes and Additions
In a similar vein, what's the most exciting bit for you from the content added to the title over the last year?
The things I'm most excited for this year, is actually not the content. The content is of course amazing, the Mehrunes storyline this year has been one of my favorites. As a player though, the things I'm most excited about are the quality-of-life improvements we've made over the year – the multi-threaded rendering to improve frame rates, the armory system for managing builds, and of course the curated item-set drop RNG to help you collect gear a bit more reliably are amongst the best things we've ever done. I can't wait for the armory and RNG systems to go live with the Deadlands DLC.prev