The world of Elder Scrolls Online is about to get a little bit bigger with the addition of the game’s first major expansion, Morrowind. Players can expect to see new areas, new quest lines, and the game’s first new class, but that’s not all.
Recently, EGM had the chance to chat with Brian Wheeler, the game’s lead PvP Designer, for an in-depth look at the new Battlegrounds mode headed to Elder Scrolls Online.
Currently, PvP in Elder Scrolls Online takes place in Cyrodil, the sprawling capital province where hundreds of players from the game’s three Alliances battle for possession of Elder Scrolls and the title of Emperor. It’s huge and open and—depending on luck—fights could be as lopsided as two players against two hundred. The new Battlegrounds system, by contrast, takes place on much smaller maps and with balanced teams.
“It’s four on four on four,” Wheeler explained. “You queue up for [Battlegrounds] like you would a dungeon… You don’t need to worry about being in a group, but if you are in a group, you’ll go in with your group. You won’t be split up.” He added that teams won’t be based on Alliance, so players can compete against friends or group up to be on the same team, regardless of faction.
At the launch of Morrowind, players will have access to three game modes: Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and Domination. The modes are playable across three maps, with each mode playable on each map. According to Wheeler, games are meant to be fast, over in less than ten minutes with a hard cap at 15 minutes.
“There are a lot of hit and run tactics,” Wheeler said. “We made the game modes play fast. Where Cyrodil is a war where you have to slug out going from Point A to Point B with a lot of travel time in between, the travel time in these [maps] is very small… Most of them, if they’re played with a team mindset of ‘we’re gonna win the match and not just run around and kill people,’ they can get done in eight to ten minutes.
“But,” he added, laughing, “We know that people just like running around and killing each other anyway.”
Of course, the different maps will lead to very different playstyles.
“There’s one which is Foyada Quarry, at the base of Red Mountain. It’s a quarry that got overrun when volcanic lava and earthquakes shook up the area. So it’s been abandoned,” Wheeler said, indicating a map that’s fairly open, with plenty of open bridges over lava and other terrain hazards. “There’s another area which is very Daedric themed, it’s been abandoned by the Daedra.” A final Dwemer-based area features forges, machinery, and a large central structure that tends towards close-quarters combat.
It’ll be up to the players to find the playstyles and team compositions that work best for each mode and each map.
“It’ll help out a lot with your team, if you go into it as a group with, you know, a DPS, a healer, and soak some damage. That helps,” Wheeler said. “But there’s also going to be the teams where people group up and there’s four healers, and they’re probably going to be really good at taking hold and just keeping themselves alive as they take flags. But the problem with that is they may not be able to kill people! We expect a huge variety of team make-ups.”
New Elder Scrolls Online players don’t need to worry about facing off with veterans in their first fights, though of course it’ll be possible.
“One of the things we did with Cyrodil at launch is what we call ‘battle level’ everybody up,” Wheeler said. “So everybody is effectively the same level… The only real differences are what you have equipped, if it has various item abilities, as well as just the abilities you have on your character. So I could go in as a level 10, and you could be a level 50, a very high-ranking champion, and we’d still be on the same team and compete.
“That being said, we do recognize that there’s a desire for lower ranks to be able to play competitively against each other without having to worry about the high-end guys, so we’re gonna have a bracket that lets players play from [level] 10 to 49. Sort of a ‘I’m still learning PvP and I’m not max level.’ There’s different queues for different styles of play.”
Even when level 50s are fighting each other, Wheeler added, part of his team’s job is to ensure that a “new” level 50 player will still have a chance against a “veteran” level 50.
Of course, Elder Scrolls Online‘s newest player class throws a wrench into the mix: The Warden, who comes complete with an AI Bear companion.
“We’ve seen that it does this thing we call ‘pressure,'” Wheeler said. “It puts pressure on another player for the whole fight. And pressure in the fact of, there’s something doing constant damage to you and you have to deal with it. It’s one more thing that a player that’s fighting has to worry about. They’re great at holding locations, especially in Team Deathmatch. If you see another team has a healer, and you put the Warden’s pet on him, he’s like, I now need to deal with this pet on me as well as healing these guys. It’s very, very good at keeping pressure up on people.”
The 4v4v4. battle style also leads to some unusual strategies not seen in simple 4v4.
“There are conversations that happen in our test room where people are yelling back and forth. ‘Hey! They’re winning! Why don’t we just gang up on them?’ And you hear the other team go, ‘You gotta be kidding me!’ But watching people react to the scores, that can happen instinctively as well.
“When there’s one team that’s way ahead and one team that’s way behind, the middle team has to figure out, ‘Well, if I go after the big guys, I can stop them from getting points, but I can kill the little guys and catch up.’ And then the little guys look at it as everyone is an opportunity to catch up. And the guys ahead, they’re either trying to keep momentum and kill everybody, or they’re like, ‘We have our top score, let’s just try to stay alive.’ You see these modes come out in people as they play. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Personally, Wheeler says, he likes to play a magicka Templar healer in battles. “I like to be the person, not who does the killing, but who makes sure other people can do the killing,” he said, grinning.
Battlegrounds, with its three maps and three modes, arrives in Elder Scrolls Online as part of the Morrowind expansion on June 6th. More maps and modes will be added to the PvP area at a later date, though these haven’t been detailed yet.