Hello internet! Today, the first ever gameplay footage of Elder Scrolls Online was streamed during Quakecon. In case you missed it, you can catch the whole thing on Bethesda’s Twitch channel. There was a lot to take in and below, you’ll find two reactions to the event from Brian and Shank. Remember, these are just two opinions. We’re betting you all have your own. Feel free to comment below! But remember, be respectful :)

. . .

Brian’s Take

Today’s Elder Scrolls Online live stream from QuakeCon 2013 wasn’t very long, but if you were watching closely, it was jam-packed with information.

At first glance this was a rushed, scripted run through some ESO gameplay, but after I sat back to think about it, there was really a lot more going on here. This demo gave fans from both the single-player Elder Scrolls fan camp and MMO veterans something to get excited about, and helped to renew my excitement for the game’s launch.

The game began with Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konkle running through the game alone. The other three people on stage were not playing at this point, so we really got a good look at what playing this game by yourself will be like. As Nick moved through the world I felt, even though he was in Morrowind, a real hint of Oblivion in what he was doing. As he moved from NPC to NPC, picking up books, exploring new locations, it really felt familiar and like it fit within the Elder Scrolls anthology. Granted, there wasn’t enough here to really emulate Oblivion I got the feeling that there was a lot of exploring that just wasn’t being done for the sake of time.

At least I hope that’s the case.

As he began engaging enemies, switching between bow and dual-wielding attack styles with easy, I got a real sense of how easy it was going to be to play this game the way I want to. Most of my playtime in Elder Scrolls games is with a bow, but I also like to throw in some dual wielding every now and then as well. It was great to see how easy it was to switch between the two, and gives me hope that I won’t have to compromise on my personal combat style.

I would love to say more about the single-player experience, but it was fairly short. I think the best thing I can say is that I came away feeling that it was much an Elder Scrolls game as was possible in the MMO setting. Sure we couldn’t interact with EVERTYHING, and sure once the game goes live there will be other players on-screen, but Nick was not bound by the whims of a group. He was free to adventure and explore as he pleased – exactly like you can in Skyrim. I’m hopeful that also like in Skyrim, there will be many things to find and interact with, more than what we could see in this demo.

Once the demo switched over to a group setting, I was first impressed with the ease and simplicity of which Nick was able to join his group. Assuming this is live when the game ships, this will be a huge hurdle that many MMOs trip over that ESO won’t have to worry about. Once Nick joined his group, the demo switched to a very combat-heavy experience. Personally, combat in Elder Scrolls games isn’t really why I’m there, but it’s of course a huge part of the game, so it was exciting to see.

When Bradford and I played at E3, it felt very chaotic and almost hapless what was happening to us. I was clicking the mouse button like mad, mashing my 1-6 keys just to try to stay alive, and often with disastrous results. It made me feel like the combat wasn’t very good, but in the back of my head I figured I must have been doing something wrong. Fortunately, once some experienced and skilled players showed us how it’s supposed to be done, the game looked much more realistic and fun. Nick and the group were timing their attacks, not just furiously clicking the mouse or spamming special abilities. The battles looked fluid, seamless, and downright exciting. It taught me a lesson that I hope to carry over with me to PAX Prime and to the game’s launch: be patient, watch what’s happening on-screen, and watch your stamina bar. If I can remember these key points, I think combat in Elder Scrolls Online will end up being fantastic.

I also wanted to give a special shout-out to Nick for playing almost the entire dungeon run in first person. A lot of what we heard before first-person was announced was that playing an MMO in this perspective wouldn’t be viable, and would get you and your party killed. Well Nick didn’t seem to have any problems with it, and it should give all you single-player, first-person Elder Scrolls fans some confidence that the developers have YOU in mind.

Not everything was perfect, mind you. Some of Nick’s special abilities didn’t really do it for me. For example, he kept firing arrows into the air that would then rain down on opponents, but they seemed too scattered and far apart to really be doing any good. I know this is a game and I have to give some things a pass in order for it to work, but it seemed to me like those arrows weren’t really even hitting anyone. I’d like to see some of these special ability animations tightened up a bit, and make it seem like they are really doing some serious damage.

Additionally, I am wondering how many death animations there are. It seemed like more often than not when a human-ish enemy was killed, he would take a slight stumble backwards, and then fall on his face, regardless of how hard he was hit from the front. I’d like to see more variety here, and a little more sensitivity to the kind of attack that took their life. Smashed in the face by a mace? Send them flying backwards! Shot in the knee with an arrow, send them crumpling to the ground! I suppose this may be one of those things that in order for this game to be online must be sacrificed, but I hope that come spring 2014 we have more ragdoll physics built in.

All-in-all, though it was a short presentation, I was happy with what I saw. I am still hesitant to say the single player experience will be perfect, but I think they’re headed in the right direction. It’s a long time until launch, so there’s still time to add more items to interact with, both out in the world and inside dungeons. Give us reason to explore every inch of these dungeons and I’ll be hooked. But if there’s no real reason to do that, then we’ll be rushing in, killing the enemies, grabbing our loot, and – as Shank says, peacing out.

I really hope there’s more reason to spend ridiculous amounts of time exploring every inch, every nook and cranny of the world, because if there is, there will be no reason to ever leave ESO.

. . .

Shank’s Take

As a member of the Elder Scrolls community, I feel that it’s my duty to be completely honest with you all. While I liked some aspects of today’s gameplay, I definitely felt there was a lot of stuff lacking. Now, whether this was due to time, or they wished to cater to a certain audience remains to be seen. In any case, here is what I liked and didn’t like. Oh and also, Paul Sage is a Huge G.


As many of you know, I spend a long time making my characters. And so, you can only imagine how happy I was when Nick started off the demo by showing us the character creation. The amount of detail one can put in his character is amazing. I’m very happy with the depth shown here. Kudos.

Not only did Nick start by creating his character, but he began the demo in first person view. Again, this is something that I’ve been longing to see. To see it implemented here was fantastic to the least. Yes, Nick did stray into third person during parts of the demo, but he played the majority of it in first person. Great stuff.

I liked the depth of the skill system showcased here. It was brief, but it was enough for me to get a sense of the intricacies of the system. The ability to morph a skill is just great, and a natural progression to the already great skill system in Skyrim. From here, Nick showed off some combat. I really appreciate the real-time nature of the combat here and I could tell that a lot of effort went into making sure it felt right. However, combat is really not a top priority for me, but I’m nevertheless happy they went real-time.

Finally, the UI was great. The compass and crosshair looked exactly like they do in Skyrim. The minimalist nature of the stat bars were great as well. I like how there’s no extraneous persistent element on the screen. It’s only there when needed.

Did Not Like

I’m afraid things started to go downhill for me here. I felt that there was just far too much emphasis on combat. In fact, Nick was fighting some bandits even before meeting up with his friends from ZOS. Yes, it was nice to show off the real-time aspect, but I really believe this could have waited till the dungeon section (more below).

Now, I am aware that was only a 30 minute demo, but I must ask, where was the exploration? Paul Sage and Zenimax have repeatedly said that this game will have exploration-based content. But…where was the exploration? This was a huge miss for me, especially because exploration is a MAJOR component of Elder Scrolls. I felt very disappointed by the lack of exploration here.

I really didn’t like the emphasis on dungeon clearing. Yes, I know this is an MMO staple, but again, we must remember this is meant to be an Elder Scrolls game. The gameplay I saw looked and felt too much like grinding. I saw a bunch of mobs that the players had to clear before moving onto the next area. What if I want to enter a dungeon and just sneak past my enemies? Will I be punished because of the emphasis on combat? Again, where was the exploration?

Again, I realize this was a short demo. However, I didn’t see any examples of how this game could be played solo. I know that I will be playing this game mostly solo, and felt that this just wasn’t showcased here. Yes, Nick rode his horse around for a bit, but nowhere did I see any incentive to go off exploring the world by yourself. Again, this is a huge component of Elder Scrolls. I just didn’t see how this could be played solo – a very worrying thought.


As I stated above, I saw some elements I liked, but there were more elements I saw that I didn’t like. Perhaps it could have been that ZOS were targeting the MMO audience for this stream and are saving the solo experience for later. I sincerely hope that this is the case. From what I saw today, The Elder Scrolls Online looks to have the “MMO” pieces in place, but I just didn’t enough “Elder Scroll” pieces – the part I care most about. I still need more convincing.

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Avatar of Shank
Editor for Quest Gaming Network and Co-Host of Elder Scrolls off the Record and Totally Heroes. Shank loves massive open-world Western RPG's. He is known to wander aimlessly for hours and generally ignores quests. While he also likes First Person Shooters, he sucks pretty bad at them. His first priority in any game he plays is graphics - an importance which he will argue to the death. Follow him on Twitter @ShankThTank

28 Responses to “ESO Livestream Reactions” Subscribe

  1. Teo August 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm #
    Avatar of Jason Etheridge

    Fear not, Shank: lack of exploration being shown is most likely due to a player solo exploring making boring TV! Fun for the player, not the audience. Its absence means they were conscious of presenting something entertaining in a limited time.

    Note that “grinding” originally meant killing mobs solely for XP, versus because they’re in your way when traversing a dungeon.


  2. Deftknight August 2, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Brian I think you hit the nail on the head there and both of you share my excitement re. character development which is great!

    Shank, you’re being seriously harsh on ZOS for not showing more exploration. I think Teo gets it right when he says that solo exploring is much more exciting for the explorer than an audience, but even so ZOS did highlight 4 amazing reasons to explore Tamriel aside from the joy of discovering new stuff!
    1) The scenery! You heard the ‘ooh’s from the Quakecon audience at that vista looking out from Sheogorath’s Tongue.
    2) Mundus Stones! While these do appear on your compass I’m sure exploring will be required to get close enough for that to happen.
    3) You get exp. for discovering new locations!
    4) Skyshards! The one Nick Konkle found wasn’t simply at the Fungal Grotto entrance – he had to hike up the hill behind the cave and look inside a hollow tree to find it, you can’t deny that’s exploration at its heart.

    • Shank August 2, 2013 at 6:53 pm #
      Avatar of Shank

      You make good points, and like I pointed out in my section, 30 min isn’t a long time to show.

      I merely wished they spent more time showing off the “Elder Scrolls” elements more than the “MMO” pieces.

      They’ve spent time talking about why one should explore – which is good. I just wanted to see it in action.

      • Arreles August 5, 2013 at 10:15 am #

        He said look at the compass and the points of interest. See something and head towards it, explore during the trip there, maybe find something else or get sidetracked. They showed the discovery of Sheogoraths(?sp) temple…said you get xp for it. Showed a book you can find. Showed a skyshard hidden in a cranny, showed a mundass stone…..
        Not really sure how much more you want, or if you’re just playing devils advocate.

  3. Velkerath August 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm #
    Avatar of Draeloth Velkerath

    This is to Shanks do not like section.

    I have to say that I very much disagree with most of what you were saying other than the fact that you mentioned exploring is a major part of an Elder Scrolls game, BUT I think you misunderstand what an MMO dungeon is all about. For example why would you even bother doing the dungeon (which has a big quest in it involving killing things and what not) if all you are planning on doing with this game is just sneaking around and avoiding any type of combat in the game.
    The main goal of this type of dungeon shown is to have a “challenge” to be able to go up against MUCH more difficult monsters/npc’s with a group of friends. I think the things you like WILL be in the game its just not a great show to watch if all they show is looking around in game. The things that we all saw in that demo answered A HUGE AMOUNT of questions many of us had as to how the combat really worked, the character creation, skills how much sneaking seems to cost when sneaking and a bunch of other things.
    I agree this was more of an MMO showing than a solo player showing, all you really need to know is that the MMO side of thise Elder Scrolls Online is the part that MANY ppl were worried about. Do you really think Bethesda/ZOS would fail on the single player side of the game? Because I think they really know what they are doing when it comes to single player. The same was said for BioWare with Star Wars The Old Republic, they made an EXCELLENT single player game but when it came to grouping up and doing the end game raids and pvp they failed hard. Its good to see that ESO seems to be goin in the right direction.

    • Shank August 2, 2013 at 6:48 pm #
      Avatar of Shank

      I’m sorry, but the reason I go into dungeons is to sneak past the enemies and get the loot. That’s the challenge for me. That’s my play style. If all I am able to do in dungeons is fight, then that will discourage me from exploring the dungeon. I just want more options. It’s just my play style

  4. Zame August 2, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    Shank I’m sure there will be more released about the exploration sooner or later, it’s in there.

  5. Velkerath August 2, 2013 at 7:35 pm #
    Avatar of Draeloth Velkerath

    Well shank that dungeon they were showing was a group one not a solo one im sure the solo ones will be more to the way you play, no worries.

    • Shank August 2, 2013 at 8:01 pm #
      Avatar of Shank

      Good point, here’s hoping they show off more solo gameplay!

  6. Xaeth August 2, 2013 at 8:53 pm #
    Avatar of Xaeth

    I understand that you like playing solo but for me showing off an mmo and showing mostly solo play is kinda contradictory.
    Even tho playing solo will be made possible it will probably never be the focus of the game and therefore wont be shown off as feature
    Remember that the focus is an elder scrolls where you can play with your friends.
    Also, I might have gotten this wrong but, your picture of exploration seems to involve no combat and only walking around and in my opinion that would mostly show off the landscape and nothing else and wouldn’t really give us any information about the game which would probably also annoy like 90% of the people who watches this expecting to see some new stuff on how the game is gonna play and by that I mean combat, skills, mechanics etc.

    ps. showing the world would be useless spoilers. Its no fun to explore a world which you’ve already seen ;-)

  7. Valoranth August 2, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    I partially agree with both of you! The weapon swapping is exciting and seamless and felt like a TES game. My only qualm was how some of the animations looked for abilities. It didn’t look like Nick was drawing his arrows from his quiver and his volley ability was painful to watch. Combat all and all looked un-polished but I’m sure will look better in time. The character customization looked amazing, and as a RP guy I’m very impressed by this beta build! The UI looks like a nice blend of TES and MMO while the skill system is awe-inspiringingly deep!

    I think they kinda did the game a injustice with how they presented it. I feel they should of had Nick start maybe 10 minutes away from the dungeon and walk over to it adventuring and maybe exploring a few places along the way. This would have put adventurers like me and shank at ease and would have give them time to explain what that dungeon was all about!

    Shank I feel you with the sneaking! I understand that sneaking through a entire dungeon is not MMO like, but they should at least have some fights that a small group could avoid through sneaking. While Hack and slash dungeons are a MMO staple, sneaking through them is a TES staple! Hopefully though they avoided this simply for the sake of time and when I finally get my beta invite my heart will be put at ease

  8. Ferroc August 3, 2013 at 2:26 am #

    If I may…..the group finder tool which I think is amazing was an awesome reveal. It simplifies getting together and getting going through a dungeon quickly, while still somewhat making sense (I can only transport myself to where someone friendly is, and only close enough to be safe). But, the system won’t teleport you right to the dungeon, nor do you actually hafta be the one to port. Someone probably should be close to the dungeon to allow others to get close, so this system allows explorers to traverse the wilds and still go out and explore, finding the entrances to these dungeons, then quickly get a group to run it should you feel inclined.

    As for solo play, I think that previous posts have summed it up in that they did need to present something somewhat exciting. Yah some of the animations could use some work, but I think it was a good move to show off how dungeons will work in this game since its something we haven’t had very much clear answers on.

    PS the part where they mount the goblin king’s head on a spike? AWESOME

  9. We know August 3, 2013 at 4:05 am #

    Immersion successfully ruined along with combat and first person view. Well done.

    • Velkerath August 3, 2013 at 9:06 am #
      Avatar of Draeloth Velkerath

      lol here we go another peron expecting an epic polished game every time something is shown

  10. We know August 3, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    No, im not expected polished game, but all they talk about immersion ruined just by how they passing through dungeon. I’m waiting for another grind dungeon game. So excited!!!
    PS: Morrowind days are gone, time to show some modern combat animation

  11. Emma Long August 4, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    I’m a massive Elder Scrolls fan, I’ve played Morrowind, Oblivion & Skyrim, & I loved all of them.
    I’ve also played an MMO or two in my day.

    Overall I’m disappointed with what was shown, there are a few things that I really disliked & somethings that I hoped would be better.
    The animations of the characters, running, standing & even attacking looked very generic & not very realistic, I’m 100% certain that it’s not because this is an MMO and that they didn’t “need to simplify the animations to accommodate a great number of characters on the screen”, because I’ve played several MMOs with fantastic animations, one in particular had spectacular animations was Aion Online.

    Not having to aim precisely with the bow to hit your target doesn’t annoy me too much because enemies can move really quickly and internet latency is unforgiving.

    Another thing that I thought was very generic and is almost anti Elder Scrolls was the sparkling & glowing on books that’s supposed to help you locate them I believe that they should’ve implemented that differently, Far Cry 3 does this sort of thing very well using sounds surrounding collectible items, Skyrim used the humming noise & the fog of the nirnroot both of these approaches did not negatively affect your immersion in the game & fit the style of the game perfectly well, the sparkles on the other hand are just too generic and cartoony.

    Another similar issue I have is with the red line surrounding enemies that you lock on, it’s very immersion breaking and quite unimaginatively implemented.
    Recognizing the enemy that you are locked on is definitely necessary, but the way this mechanism was implemented was very poor.

    Character models looked very generic as well, the NPC he met at the beginning was holding a book in her hand, the book wasn’t a separate entity however, it was actually part of her character model, I thought we were past this sort of thing, we’re already in 2013, you can easily animate objects in the hands of characters without having them be part of the character model itself.

    The voice acting wasn’t very good either, far too generic for my taste, you rarely hear a British accent in any Elder Scrolls Game, yet the NPC spoke in the sort of British accent that you hear in every cheap MMORPG game you come across.

    There was no point in the whole live-stream that you’d pause and say, yes I recognize this gameplay feature, it looks a lot like elder scrolls.
    I’ve actually showed some footage of this to a whole bunch of my elder scrolls fans friends that do not follow ESO news & I asked them to guess what game this was, only one out of 8 said this looks like Elder Scrolls & when I asked him why he’d guessed that, he said it was because the campus looked like the one from Skyrim which is extremely sad.

    I was seriously considering buying & playing this game, but after watching the gameplay video, I’ve decided this game is far too much MMO and far too less Elder Scrolls for my taste.

    • Valoranth August 4, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

      This outcry from the TES community will hopefully change the game for the better. Zenimax has some work to do especially with the breakout of Everquest Next

    • We know August 5, 2013 at 7:56 am #

      Thumbs up, man.

    • Arreles August 5, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      You make some good points here, althoughI wanted to comment on this section:

      “Another similar issue I have is with the red line surrounding enemies that you lock on, it’s very immersion breaking and quite unimaginatively implemented.
      Recognizing the enemy that you are locked on is definitely necessary, but the way this mechanism was implemented was very poor.”

      If you’ve played skyrim and are basing your comparison to ESO on skyrim the I would like to add an example of why I believe you are mistaken.

      In skyrim you may fight 3-5 enemies at a single time. Its fairly easy to discern which one is an enemy and which is a friend. Saying that, I have a mod that addss Bandit Raids sto major cities. Im talking like 30 bandits attacking the front gates of Whiterun. When the bandits, guardss and towns people get into a giant brawl it is IMPOSSIBLE to tell who is friend and who is foe. I slight red aura around your enemy target would be amazing and I think its the least immersive breaking way to go about it with ESO’s current UI setup.

      • We know August 5, 2013 at 11:13 am #

        that’s why i think battle 200×200 people is unplaable at all, even with softlock,

      • Emma Long August 5, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

        I don’t disagree with you, I do really believe that it’s crucial to identify which enemy you are locked on to, but the way it was implemented i believe was inappropriate, similarly to the sparkles on the books, it’s a very generic way of focusing attention, it was never used in any elder scrolls game because it breaks immersion.

        If they fail to improve their implementation of locking on to targets I would like to at least have the ability to disable that option when I play alone.

        There are ways to maybe improve this mechanism, a bold red line surrounding the character/monster just looks silly & I’ve hated it in other games too not just here.

        I also wish the action bar was less opaque and more transparent, because as its implemented now it’s very distracting & adds clutter to the screen.

        I guess Todd Howard from Bethesda managed to hide all of this from his games using intelligent implementations that I’ve only now come to really appreciate.

        • Velkerath August 6, 2013 at 12:02 am #
          Avatar of Draeloth Velkerath

          I think that the targeting system seems ok and I’m sure theres a way to turn it off or on in game, also you are forgetting they will allow some ui modding so who really knows whats going to happen with all that.

          • Velkerath August 6, 2013 at 12:28 am #
            Avatar of Draeloth Velkerath

            “I also wish the action bar was less opaque and more transparent, because as its implemented now it’s very distracting & adds clutter to the screen.”

            I know I have read something about how you can disable the entire skill bar if you wish. By disable I mean make it invisible.

            Also I would like to add that this is not elder scrolls 6. If you are planning on a “morrowind/oblivion/skyrim single player” game I think you may be disappointed in what gets released.

            As you change a game to an “mmo” its going to change the game a lot no matter what you end up doing to try and make it like a single player rpg. I think too many people are expecting this skyrim copy paste and just plug it up to a mega server and let it go. As an elder scrolls player I love the freedom but as an mmo player i understand that even freedom is going to have its limits. That said ESO still by far is giving the player WAY more freedom than most mmo’s out to date.

            Don’t get me wrong I do agree animations need a lot of work from what they have shown in that stream, but I don’t think it was bad of them to show us I’m just happy to have seen something at this point. Just got to remember they have like 8 months(guessing) of more testing and polishing.

          • Emma Long August 6, 2013 at 6:36 am #

            Please stop giving me the old “this has to be a certain way because it’s an MMO” I’ve played quite a few MMOs, so I know what I actually want has been done before in MMOs and it’s not out of reach.

            Why does this have to be like a generic MMO with the exact same very poor in my opinion generic implementations of various aspects of the game.

            This game has a chance to innvovate & has the biggest chance of any MMO ever to bring about a change, so not having to do the exact same old generic MMO stuff is going to be very easy for them.

            The first person combat is a wonderful example of this & the team deserves massive kudos for that.

            But their work is certainly not done, not by a long shot, they have so much work to do, and a Q1 2014 release time seems very ambitious now that I’ve actually seen what the game in its current state looks like.

    • Zeffin August 6, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

      You make some very valid points and I encourage you to sign up for beta. This way, you can make you voice heard to Zenimax while the game is still in the works. As fans of the series, it’s our job to voice our opinions to make sure the game is made the way we want it.

  12. Zeffin August 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    For Shank and all of the Elder Scrolls fans out there that haven’t played an MMO, I wouldn’t worry so much about the solo play in ESO. I have played over a dozen MMO’s and I prefer to play solo. I was able to solo to max level in almost all of them without a problem (without grinding.) I was also able to sneak my way past most enemies in solo dungeons and get that much desired loot!

    I would not expect that an MMO based off of the very popular SOLO experience require you to play in groups.


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