One of our fans from Germany (Johanna, @monahven), helped us out by translating the German interview for us, and it might be a little easier for you to read and follow now. If you haven’t read the whole interview yet, now’s the time to dive in.
A Q&A session with Matt Firor appeared on the German site buffed.de and was translated into English. There is some good information here on beta progress, crafting, PvP, and endgame PvE. The questions and answers were translated a little confusingly, so rather than trying to interpret Firor’s meaning and getting it wrong, we have simply copied the interview word for word to share with you. You can view the entire interview in its original form here.
buffed: The MMO market has become very difficult. There are, of course, still subscription models but also more and more Free2Play MMOs. Are your worried about the market situation?
Matt Firor: It is important that we focus on our game. Of course we also look at the market but we have a great advantage and that is the trademark “The Elder Scrolls”. We try to use this by developing a multiplayer Elder Scrolls game and not a normal MMO. We want the millions of Skyrim players to feel at home when they play TESO. This is also the reason why the combat system is the way it is and why the UI is that minimalistic. This way we ensure that people want to play our game because it’s more Elder Scrolls.
buffed: Apart from the combat system, what is typically Elder Scrolls for you in ESO?
Matt Firor: Wow, there are millions of answers. There are a lot of factors that show that it is an Elder Scrolls game. The story, the game world, players know the different people and we don’t have to explain to the users what is going on in the world because they basically already know everything. And we do not have individual, separate servers, we have mega servers. You have global groups of friends, you can be in multiple guilds at the same time. We also offer advanced social systems.
buffed: In March you announced that you will have a European and a North American mega-server. Have you already decided where the European one will be?
Matt Firor: Yes, I think it is in Frankfurt (am Main, Ed.)
buffed: Oh, that’s very good for us! Short distance, short latency.
Matt Firor: It’s good for all of Europe as Frankfurt is centrally located.
buffed: You have not yet decided what kind of business model you will use, if it’s going to be a subscription or free to play or maybe even a hybrid model, right?
Matt Firor: We don’t talk about that yet.
buffed: How many players are currently in the beta?
Matt Firor: There are now a few thousand.
buffed: When will you invite more players?
Matt Firor: When we are ready, but that sounds stupid. For each beta test phase we have specific goals we need to achieve before we invite new players. We are slowly getting to the point where we will invite more people.
buffed: What is the goal of your current beta test?
Matt Firor: Each phase has its own goal. In one, we test the combat system, in another the questing. In the next we will test the stability. It’s a different goal for each phase but we will soon reach a point where we will invite a lot more people.
buffed: Have you already made major changes to the game because of the beta experience?
Matt Firor: Tons of little things, many improvements have been incorporated. Every player has a different approach to a game and notices things that we don’t notice in the design phase. Players are good at breaking quests. There are tons of little things that we have repaired but nothing major.
buffed: Was there something that the beta testers found out that surprised you personally?
Matt Firor: Our team consists of many MMO- and Elder-Scrolls-players so a lot of what the beta testers say we’ve already heard from our own people. There was nothing really new or controversial. There are mainly small things like broken quests, weapons that do not work properly, the standard beta stuff, fixing small problems and such.
buffed: We were able to test TESO in May, how final was the scoring of the content that we were allowed to play? Some of the voices seemed to have been used for multiple NPCs.
Matt Firor: This setting is pretty final. We may go over it again, but hopefully we will not have to re-record it. Some of the voice actors have different roles. In the area in which you played there could be a few voice actors who did multiple characters. But normally there shouldn’t be one voice actor for multiple characters in one area.
buffed: At our last meeting, Paul Sage, the creative director of TESO, emphasized the importance of crafting in the game. buffed-users, however, have raised the question of how crafting could still be important even after reaching max level. If you have maxed out your character there is not much to do for crafters, right?
Matt Firor: At maximum level crafters can further refine and improve items. For example, if you get a sword from a dungeon you can enchant it. A rogue character, for example, can receive an enchantment that can make him sneak better. So it is custom-made. The weapon may be basically standard but the craftsmen can customize it for the owner.
buffed: But if your equipment is maxed out then there is nothing more to buy.
Matt Firor: No, but you can still continue to enchant items. Even if you have maxed out your equipment there is room for enchantments.
buffed: But what if I already have the best enchantments? In most older online role-playing games with player driven economy wear plays the key role. Is there something like that in TESO?
Matt Firor: There is no classic wear but we have soul stones that discharge. High-level magic weapons must be recharged from time to time. But it is not about wear. You can continue to use the weapon, it just has lost something of its magic.
buffed: How do you recharge the energy?
Matt Firor: You can find new soul stones or ask a craftsman to recharge them.
buffed: In May I played a healer for the first time. Most of his skills were area of effect so it didn’t take much brain power to play it properly. I have to add my character was only level 5. Does that change later on or does it stay that way?
Matt Firor: The Templar gets even more different healing abilities most of which are area of effect. TESO is not a “Tab Target Game.” You don’t click on your target, heal, click on another target and heal again and so on. There are single target heals but you have to aim at the target and then you can heal. This is the specialty of the Templar.
buffed: But you can lock on to friendly targets, I’ve done that with my tab key and a white border appeared around my target. Is this a hard- or softlock?
Matt Firor: It is the hardlock. We support tab targeting for dungeons when there’s a lot going on on your screen.
buffed: Does the hardlock only work when your target is in front of you or does it also work when it’s behind you?
Matt Firor: I don’t know unfortunately. Maybe that is the case.
buffed: When we played the game in March there were a few things regarding the alliance war that weren’t really clear to us. For example what the campaign map of Cyrodiil looks like and whether the battles are instanced or not. You’ve always talked about 200 players per battle which isn’t very much on a mega server with potentially millions of people. So we had the impression that the battles for important places such as a castle or bridge may be instanced like the open dungeons that you will find anywhere in the PvE world of Tamriel. But now that doesn’t seem to be the case. Please explain that a bit more detailed.
Matt Firor: It’s an open battle system, there are no instances. When you walk into Cyrodiil and go into a fortress it is really there. So there are no instances within Cyrodiil. What confused you was that there are only a certain amount of players per campaign. Since we have no single, small server, we need to ensure that the areas are not overpopulated. Therefore we run multiple versions of Cyrodiil. And your character, your guild will be bound to a version of it which we call campaign. You have a limited ability to switch between campaigns. Of course you can always come to aid a friend and switch to their campaign. But if you want to be tied to a campaign, your character has one, your guild has one, then you play in this campaign.
buffed: How many players are possible per campaign?
Matt Firor: The beta test will show that. Our starting point at the moment is at 2,000 players and 200 participants per battle. Cyrodiil is huge, it is nine times the size of a PvE area! So 2,000 people can be in different parts of the area and participate at the same time in different battles.
buffed: But what if I took part in a campaign the previous evening then go to bed and the next day want to participate again but then the campaign is full?
Matt Firor: Every time I go to Cyrodiil I’m in the same campaign. It is my campaign. I know the people playing in it, I know all the guilds and the opponents because I fight them a lot.
buffed: What rules are there for changing the campaign? Does it cost anything?
Matt Firor: We are developing those things at the moment. We will provide the opportunity but people will not want to do it so often. It will cost something, either money or maybe something else.
buffed: What still confuses us is this number of 200 players per battle. Why can only 200 players participate in a battle when up to 2,000 players can be present in a campaign in Cyrodiil?
Matt Firor: This has to do with the minimum hardware requirements of the game. It means that the game can practically run with 30 FPS (Frames Per Second) in any situation, even with 200 players in the field of view. So you can have 201 players in your field of view but then maybe the frame rate drops to 29.9 FPS.
buffed: So 200 players can be in front of you in your field of view and 300 more behind you?
Matt Firor: Yes, and that’s a battle of 500 players.
buffed: Is this limitation based on the client or on the server?
Matt Firor: It is based on the client. It all depends on how many pixels the PC can display smoothly.
buffed: So if you reduce the graphic details or visibility range…
Matt Firor: That is possible. We designed the system so that there may be thousands of players in Cyrodiil. But if the entire army is in one location it leaves vast areas unprotected and you surely won’t want that. Because gigantic battles like these are bad for your faction. If you hold three forts and you draw all the people to attack another one you can pull together hundreds of people. But if the opponent is smart he avoids you and takes your unprotected fortresses while you fight.
buffed: What about PvE raids? We are pretty sure that this topic has been addressed last fall.
Matt Firor: Yes, we announced something like that.
buffed: Will those be open dungeons that you can go in to with a large number of players?
Matt Firor: No, it is our system for Endgame PvE. We are currently developing this system. All I am describing now could soon change again. But it is not a raid system like in other MMOs.
buffed: So they are not traditional MMORPG style raids like in WoW?
Matt Firor: The Elder Scrolls does not have those 50 foot tall god-like demons, the brand just doesn’t offer something like that.
buffed: After all you have the Daedric princes …
Matt Firor: … whom you can’t fight directly …
buffed: … but who also cannot die and therefore can always come back as an incarnation. That would be the perfect basis for something like PvE raids.
Matt Firor: We try to do something different for endgame PvE and will talk about that in the future.
buffed: Okay, so for the record: There will be a kind of PvE raid.
Matt Firor: No, we do not call them raids. We call it Multi-Big-Group-Endgame-PvE.
buffed: Will the Big-Group-Content already be in TESO at the release of the game?
Matt Firor: Yes, it is the last game system that we develop before the release.
buffed: But if your are not satisfied with it it could as well appear after realease?
Matt Firor: If we are not satisfied then it won’t come with the release. We feel very obliged to publish a stable, entertaining version of the game. We will publish a lot of things after the release. New content, quests, and we have an enormously wide release plan for the time after launch.