ESO Interview with Maria Aliprando


During our visit of the GamesCom gaming convention we hovered around Bethesda’s booth and managed to get our hands on Elder Scrolls Online. While playing, we had several game developers hanging around, helping us with any questions we might have. We kidnapped Mrs. Maria Aliprando, Gameplay Designer (in charge of Creature design, Combat design and various other gameplay mechanics) and demand that she answers some of the questions the ESO community wanted answered (we sent out a call for questions here).
Now that I think back, I think it was more us begging her to talk to us and her being gracious enough to do so. We talked about the famous Elder Scrolls books, mounts, soulgems, endgame, best in slot items, dungeons and various other systems. In part 2 of this interview (that will be made available shortly) we talked about PvP and the Finesse system as well. We hope you enjoy these community questions and answers and we would like to take this opportunity to thank Mrs. Alipandro and all the developers present at the show floor for putting up with us.


Maria Aliprando

Maria Aliprando
Elder Scrolls Online
Gameplay Designer

We were playing the game and came across a bookscase, which made us ask our first interview question.
Q: How do books in Elder Scrolls Online work? In other Elder Scroll games some books would yield skill points. This is obviously not something we’ll see in ESO.
A: Books in Elder Scrolls Online come in various ways. There is a number of books you can collect that will randomly “drop” from bookcases you come across in the world. There are some books that are scattered around the world that stand by themselves and they obviously yield greater rewards. All the collected books will not go into your inventory as before, but there is an interface where you can browse all the books that you collected. What is special about books in Elder Scrolls Online is that if you join the Mages Guild you will advance some of your Mage Skills by collecting these “Mage Guild Books”. Mage skills can not be advanced like some other skills through usage, but instead you have to explore the world and find these books to upgrade your skills. There are also books not related to the Mages guild that you can collect for lore’s sake.

Q: Are there rare books that you can find only in dungeons or something?
A: Yes, absolutely. There are books hidden in dungeons. So, there is those lore specific Books, and than every bookcase that you walk up to is where the nonspecific ones come from, so you can just walk up to it and get like: “The Cheeses of Tamriel”.
Q: You don’t get skill points from them?
A: No, you won’t be awarded for the bookcase books. It has to be a book that you found in the world.
Q: Can you give us more details about the mounts?
A: They are all Horses. When you get a mount, and you can have multiple horses, you have to feed the horse every day. Depending on what you feed the horse, the horse will either get faster or it will be able to carry more inventory, you will get more inventory space, because you have a pack horse now … or you will be able to have a combat warhorse that would be resistant to caltrops, and getting knocked off your horse and things like that.

Q: Can the horse die?
A: The horse will not die, but you will get dismounted from the horse. We’re also working on naming horses. You can have multiple different horses, so if you want three different type of horses, like, this is my adventuring horse, this is my pvp horse, this is my speed horse, you can only have one with you. And you have to go to the stables in order to change your horses. Either you have to go to the town or in Cyrodiil you have to go to your base.
Q: So you can’t just spawn it right there?
A: No, you can’t just spawn a different mount wherever. You can’t just have all of them with you at once. Horse will change appearance as you feed it as well. So warhorses look different from pack horses.
Q: How do you feed it? You craft or…?
A: You go to the stable and you talk with stable master, and the stable master asks what do you want to feed your horse. And you say I want to feed him apples, carrots or something else. You can look at somebody’s horse and see if they have armor on the horse, or a special saddle packs on it and differentiate what kind of horse it is.
Q: How do you get mounts? Do you just buy them?
A: There is no level restriction, it is just pure cost. Right now it is 15 000 gold.
Q: Which is something that you can get in 5 levels?
A: The last time I bought a horse I got it at level 11, but I grind-ed the gold for it. But you could just have your friend give you the gold, and you have a horse. It might be an issue for the first few days and afterwards everyone will be able to have one quickly. The horse you get is just a horse, you have to feed it to make it more usable. The gold is just a barrier to get a horse, and then you can buy multiples if you want to.
Q: Playing the game we saw that you have a telegraph system.
A: Some monsters have abilities that will show a visual representation of where their skill will have effect. We are still in beta, so what you are seeing right now is being tweaked to be more visually pleasing and immersive. There is also a Finesse system related to the telegraphs (about which we will talk at lenghth in part 2 of this interview). You can turn them off if you want to. You can turn off red outlines on the characters if you want to as well. All those visual aids are optional.
Q: Death penalties are just armor penalties or?
A: It is armor degrade. You get two options when you die, you can either ress at a Wayshrine – fast travel systems. If you are currently at a Wayshrine, it is free, or you can click at the map and teleport to any Wayshrine that that you have already discovered. You can ress in place, but you must have a soul gem, and you must have it filled with a soul obviously. Soul gems are used for both ressing yourself, ressing allies, and keeping your gear enchanted.

Q: How do you fill the soul gems, with a spell, like in other Elder Scroll games? Are they like pre-filled?
A: You have to soul trap. The main skill line gives you a set of skills. The first one you get for free is Soul Trap. For example you can get abilities where you can ress without a soul if you want to. Eventually, the highest rank is your weapon just automatically have soul trap on them. But you need to play through the tutorial and the main story in order to get it. The first skill you get is soul trap and it is one of the five buttons you can put on a bar, and you have to have a soul gem with you in order to soul trap.
Q: Lets talk about end game. You get to level 50, and you’re done with your continent. You finished your alliance’s area, and your story, and the next thing you can do is to go to the other continents and start the story there. For MMO players rewards are very important. Getting to level 50 is your reward for playing through your alliance’s area. When you go to the other continent, is there any other reward besides the lore or the story that you have experienced?
A: Yes. The whole area levels up with you. When you go to level 50, if you played through Bleakrock, as Aldmeri Dominion player, Bleakrock is level 53, the content gets harder and harder the more you go through it, and the rewards for it get better and better. So, if you wanted the top drop loot in the game, you can either master dungeon run, you could AVA, you could go through the alliance war, or you could go through 50+ content.
Q: And you can get the best in slot drops that way?
A: You can get the best gear from doing the 50+ content.

Q: If it gets harder and harder, does that mean you need to bring your friends along with you?
A: You can either bring your friends, or you can potion up, or you can just go slow and master you way through it. Also if you come up across the areas where it is like bunch of trolls in the area, and the trolls are pretty hard by themselves, but now it’s 50+ level trolls, you probably want to have fire with you in order to defeat those trolls. You’re going to have more skill points obviously because you get skill rewards as well. You are going to have more tools going into the 50+ content, and you are going to get better and better gear going through the 50+ content. While the content gets harder your character also gets better. While most people will probably bring a friend when they go into the 50+ content, usually the silver level, which is the first alliance you go to, you can get through it, but the third alliance is probably when you will have to bring a friend.
Oh, and as far as endgame goes, we have all the content, but also post launch we are going to be adding more systems to the game, so for example justice system will come online, which comes online with the thieves guild and the dark brotherhood systems. We are not going to be launching with Imperial City open, because it is under siege right now, and later you will be able to go through Imperial City and adventures zones.
Q: Players that do not start playing the game right away on the beginning, when they join, six months from now, it is going to be a different experience for them, it is going to be a different world, where Imperial City is not under siege any more, and there is a new system in place?
A: Yes, the world will continue to grow. You still have to go through the main story of Molag Bal, but more plot devices will happen as the world continues to change.
Q: So later you join you are going to see something different, and if you are along for the ride the whole time you are going to see the whole story line and evolutions.
A: If you come in maybe half a year, after launch, there will be systems in place that were not there originally, so you might be able to join the thieves guild at level 5 or at whatever time you get to the Major City, you will get that experience as well and with each of the skill lines for the guilds a storyline as well, entire quest line, so you will get entire quest line for Dark Brotherhood that the older players have not seen.
Q: These adventures zones and raids, I don’t think there is much info about them …
A: We haven’t given any details about them yet, we are currently working on them, so we do not want to say anything that we might potentially change. But there is going to be content for 4 players, and content for 24 players.

Community Questions

Q: What stats will be available on armor? Because on ESO games you have just armor, and enchantments. Is there, like in traditional MMO, that you have plus intelligence, plus stats. (question submitted by reddit user DoopSlayer)
A: We have enhancements for Health, Magicka and Stamina, which are your three major attributes. We have all resistance types as well, we have things on weapons, such as Heartening, which gives you shields, we have Enrages, which can give you more power, we have things that will take away power, we have life steal. Things like that.
Armor sets will give you a special ability or attribute, if you have the set. For example you might be able to get a set of armor that is especially crafted for assassin, so when you attack from stealth you get extra damage, or we might have a set that when you get attacked, depending on the threshold of the attack, you might burst out of PVE AOE. Sets of armor are where you get those really unique, specific, interesting abilities. As far as regular enchantments go, there are pretty wide range on armor, there are even more on weapons, but they stay constant through the game. So if you want a frost enchant, the frost enchant is just higher level frost enchant the higher you go.
Q: …It is all customizable basically, and the only thing that changes is the armor rating…
A: Right, and then the artifact weapons are where you get the special abilities and things like that. So, it is either a set or an artifact that gives you those really special unique abilities.
Q: How do you craft some of those armors, because in single player games you crafted your best armor in game and you enjoyed it.(question submitted by reddit user DoopSlayer and mrfatbush)
A: Crafting is certainly a way to get the best armor and not only getting the best armor, but taking the armor that you get in the world and making it better. Crafting is vital to get the best weapons and best armor.

Crafting, the way it works is, you craft in a style of armor, so if you are an orc, or someone else, you craft in orc style, and as you learn more crafting, you can get more styles. You could even take something that was orc armor and change it to look like another type of armor. But those are all just styles, just appearance. And then artifacts come from special drops.
Q: Are there special PVP stats?
A: There are no special PVP stats.
Q: So it is still Stamina, Health and Magicka?
A: And resistances as well, which are very important, and races get resistance as well.
Sets of armor will come from specific places, so if you are just looking for a set, you will have to find that set in a specific place, but if you are just looking for the best stat you can get that anywhere, in any end content location, and you can change that appearance of that armor however you like. But as far as the best goes it is hard to say there is the best gear, like you must go to this dungeon to get the best, because there are so many builds for so many characters, and so many different ways to play. It might be the best for you, it may be worthless to somebody else.
Q: How does the ability progression works? You talked about morphing your ability once it reaches level 4. Is there progressions beyond that? Like another level up and morph? (asked by reddit user Cireous)

A: For now, your first morph is where you end your skill progression. You can respec and change your morph choice, but there is no progression after that … for now.
Q: How long do dungeons take on average to complete? Both regular and master? (question submitted by reddit user DoopSlayer)
A: I would say – depending on the makeup of you group – it is usually under an hour, you can run it faster if you know what you are doing or your group is really organized. Master dungeons take still a little bit under an hour or more depending on how your group is doing, and the group makeup. We have tried many different groups, all random, all sorcerers, and some worked better than others but the thing that always seemed to work the best is having roles, and you can switch your role on fly. So, for example, if you run through a 4man dungeon with a tank, healer and dps and whatever else you want, it can be another dps, tank and all that, you are probably going to be more successful than somebody that walks in with 4 healers. Four healer group could probably get through the dungeon, but it might take more than an hour. If your healer, for example dies, you can switch out and somebody else is a healer now.
Q: Like through your weapon switching and then you have a new skill sets there?
A: Yes, and then the way the tanking works, you have a skill that encourages monsters to attack you, but monsters also have a priority target.
Q: I wanted to ask, about taunting system and aggro system in general. How does that work? You do not have fixed target, you have an area of affect.
A: There is no aggro meter, and there is no situation where all of the sudden you have all the aggro. It is more like when there are 8 guys that were fighting, and one of them is really powerful. Obviously the tank is going to want to get that guy, and the tank might be a guy in light armor and staff, or might be a traditional tank, but you want one person focused on at least that guy, and if you can take some more that is great. The way that you taunt is based on abilities, so there is one handed sword abilities that taunt, and there is also fighters guild abilities that taunt. So, you would taunt a guy, he is on you for a while, and if he is not interested in you anymore, you either have to taunt him again or just keep attacking, keep making him think you are the most threatening thing in the world.

Basically, you will not be able to take on everything as a tank. There are so many things happening, you probably won’t be able to survive all the attacks. You cannot pick up everybody. Usually what happens is, when I tank, I take the biggest guy and one or two others, and since I know all the mechanics, it sounds like I am cheating, :), but if you know all of the mechanics, you can probably take 3 or 4 guys, and then everybody else should just have to deal with it. Tanking is more about figuring out what the biggest threat on their side is, and convincing them that you are the biggest threat on your side.
Q: I saw in the gameplay video from QuakeCon, the archer was targeting, and then he moved a little bit to the left, and arrow went off, but it still went toward the monster and hit the monster. So there is a half auto targeting system? Am I right?
A: Actually, we have a bug on a bow, we are fixing that. The bug currently is – when you point at a guy and then turn, arrow still goes toward the guy, but that won’t happen. If you shoot a guy, and you are within the window of his targeting you will hit him, but if you are just shooting over there, or if you start charging and you point and let go, you won’t hit him. You must be facing and looking at your target in order to hit him. Obviously, it is a little bit harder to hit the guys at range, because their hit boxes are a little bit smaller.
One of the different things that comes in with a bow, and that does not come in with a staff is, when you charge up a staff, once you get a full charge it will just go. You cannot hold it. A bow, however, you can hold as long as you like, and just waiting for your moment to let go. So in that case it is a little bit more strategic, it is more archery like, as opposed to the staff, when the magic is fully wound up, there is nothing you can do.

Q: How did the stress test go?(question submitted by reddit user ignore_this_comment)
A: It went really well, I mean, we stress tested it to make it go down, and we have been doing really well.
Q: How many people have you managed to put in to one place, for example, before severely affecting performance of the gameplay? Can you do massive battles?
A: We have certainly had successful 100+ versus 100+ battles in Cyrodiil. Stress testing is more like, we hit our goals of what is the limit, and our limit is pretty high. It is a little bit different on different machines and different parts of countries.
Q: But on the server side it is working?
A: On the server side it is working. One of the issues we are working with right now, is when it gets to be the point where it’s more then we know that we can handle, like 3 000 people on screen at once. We are at the point where, we are optimizing for what do we cut out, what you will not see anymore, so that’s what the stress test is for. The Stress test now is failing where we want it to fail, and then we will start figuring out do we cut off the particles that you can see, do we take out distance, do we take out players over 200 meters, because you don’t care that guy 200 meters over there is doing. We are still figuring out what our optimizations is going to be when we hit those numbers. Our goal was 200 people on screen with full effects, full siege weaponry and full frames. That’s our target and we got that.
Q: Last question for all the developers present here. (proceeds to gather all developers including game director Matt Frior) Can we have Chat Bubbles in ESO?(question submitted by reddit user SkumbagAce and nast222)
A: We can do anything but we can’t do everything.

Thanks to the Elder Scrolls Online community and the ESO developers.

2 thoughts on “ESO Interview with Maria Aliprando

  1. David K

    In part 2 of this interview (THAT WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE SHORTY) we talked about PvP and the Finesse system as well.

    This article was post on 8/30/2013. Its been nearly 3 weeks. That ain’t shortly unless you are a game developer.


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