With the holidays just around the corner, it’s fair to say that 2013 is coming to a close faster than we might expect. So much has changed over the past year in the gaming world, it can all be difficult to keep track of! To see just how far we’ve come in only one short year, I took the liberty of outlining the major progress that Zenimax has made in developing The Elder Scrolls Online. Starting with the Press Release that occurred last October, this timeline will help give a better explanation of the improvements that have been made as time has progressed.
October 2012 – The ESO Preview Event
In Mid-October of last year, many of the most prominent guild and community leaders received an invitation to test out a pre-Alpha version of The Elder Scrolls Online in Baltimore. When the NDA was lifted on October 22nd, dozens of articles and podcasts were released describing a multiplayer roleplaying game with mechanics extremely similar to what we saw in Skyrim. The official ESO website went live this month as well, providing the community with weekly articles or videos on the progress of the plot and design of the game. It was around this time that the Developer Questions of the Week started, and will have its 1 year anniversary as a series near the end of this month.
January 2013 – Beta Signups Begin
The end of January marked an exciting point in ESO history, when players finally had the opportunity to sign up for closed beta testing. Zenimax claims that over 3 million applications were submitted, and have since sent tens of thousands of invitations. The following month, the ESO Facebook page received over 1 million likes, and will reach 1.5 million within the next few weeks. With such a massive amount of support, ESO was nominated multiple times and awarded “Most Anticipated Game of 2013” by Gamebreaker, MMORPG Player’s Choice and Ten Ton Hammer.
March 2013 – Announcement of the Nightblade Class
On March 19th, an NDA was lifted from the Preview Event Coverage of PAX East. This included news about the release of a brand new class known as the Nightblade. Although very little information other than the name was release, the community went wild speculating about a class dedicated to stealth combat that hid in the shadows. PAX East was the first time lucky members of the community were able to play the game, and were able to immediately release all information they learned to the public. It was also confirmed during this month that a realistic first person view would be added at a later date.
April 2013 – Nameplates are Removed
In early April, a beta leak allowed us to get a glimpse of the starting area for The Daggerfall Covenant, along with Zenimax’s plans for allowing the use of nameplates above players’ heads. Later that month, the option to turn nameplates on was removed to increase the level of immersion in the world. At first, many players struggled to distinguish whether they were looking at a NPC or a real person. Eventually this problem was solved by having players’ health bars appear above their heads in blue, as opposed to showing up as red at the top of your screen for enemies.
May 2013 – First Person View is Officially Added
Earlier in February we learned that although players could zoom their cameras all the way in, they wouldn’t be able to see their hands. The community vocalized their disagreement with this design element, and Zenimax worked quickly to redesign a realistic first person view, one of the classic elements of any Elder Scrolls game. Near the end of May, Zenimax released new footage from the E3 preview event that provided an example of how the first person view and combat was going to play out. Since then, the quality of the weapons and animations in first person has continued to increase with the rest of the game thanks to tester and community feedback.
June 2013 – Console Compatibility for PS4 and Xbox One
During the end of the E3 event in June, Zenimax surprised the community by announcing that ESO would not only be available for PC and Mac, but also for the PS4 and Xbox One. This came in congruence with a delay in the game release, being pushed from 2013 to the Spring of 2014. Many players feared that the release of consoles was what resulted in the push-back of the release date, but the exact opposite was true; Zenimax wanted to perfect the quality of their end-game content and polish the game, and used the opportunity to also release on the brand new consoles. This delay in release demonstrates how important it is to Zenimax to release a high-quality game, even if it takes a little bit longer to finish. At E3, The Elder Scrolls Online won over 10 awards and was nominated for dozens of others, so many that they can’t all be listed here!
August 2013 – The New Compass replaces the Minimap
During Quakecon 2013, game play footage was released showing a variety of the changes such as the brand new compass. According to a Knowledge Base Answer, Zenimax realized during the Beta testing that,
When we had a mini-map, we noticed many testers felt like they should just follow quest markers, and they were less inclined to explore. This ran counter to our intent of being a game that emphasizes exploration. When we introduced the compass, players became much more likely to explore and less likely to just ‘follow the quests.’
The new compass allowed players to locate their enemies easier similar to Skyrim’s system and dramatically increase immersion in the game. It also locates nearby points of interest, and even allows for players to place custom destination markers.
October 2013 – New Customizable Models are Featured
Although the model designs for Argonians have been progressively changing since feedback began last year, the Character Creation Video released last month provided the community with a high quality example of their customization. Although few pictures of the early Khajiit exist, they’ve also received an extensive makeover in their design. The majority of these changes come directly from player feedback regarding the old models, and demonstrates Zenimax’s goal to create a multiplayer RPG with true customization rather than a classic MMO. With the release of this video, any doubts that may have existed in regards to character design were completely erased.
Other Hidden Changes
Over the past year, many other changes have occurred that haven’t been very news-worthy, but still deserve recognition nevertheless. Some of the most notable changes include the death penalty system, which originally gave players an experience penalty when they were killed. This has since been adjusted to cause armor degradation, which can be repaired by nearly any shop for a small fee. Originally a class known as the Warden existed as a defensive support mage, but was removed due to balancing problems and combined with the existing Sorcerer class. A variety of other content is continually being updated, such as story lines, combat abilities and experience rates. Rumor has it that the maps available within the game are receiving a major overhaul along with the crafting system.
It’s hard to believe that one year has already passed since the first Press Release on The Elder Scrolls Online. Since then, many of us have made new friends, joined new guilds, and even had the opportunity to play the game during gaming events and conventions. Before we know it, the NDA will be lifted and we’ll finally have the opportunity to participate in the Open Beta. ESO has come such a long way since it’s announcement, and it will be exciting to see how many more changes are made before the official release of the game.