Elder Scrolls Online dev details challenge of adding Warden Class

Chris Stead 2 June 2017

ESO-WARDEN-CLASS

ZeniMax Online Studios’ creative director, Rich Lambert takes us through the behind the scenes process of adding the Warden class to The Elder Scrolls Online.

Three years is a surprisingly long wait for an MMO’s first major expansion, but so it will be when the 2014 MMO behemoth receives its Morrowind chapter on June 6.

Coming to PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the Morrowind expansion brings the full, somewhat reimagined island of Vvardenfell to the already huge game. It’s a beautiful place to behold, too. Filled with diverse environments, large instances, a tonne of great characters to meet and detailed buildings to explore. And loot – lots of loot.

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There are a number of important new features coming with the expansion. As well as providing a completely new starting point for players to set off on their adventure through Tamriel – so you don’t have to be an existing player to hit the ground running – there are a tonne of new story elements to dive into, too. There’s also a new PvP mode called Battlegrounds, which provides a tighter, more focused take on player combat. But for many, it’s the addition of a new class – the Warden – and its combat ally – the War Bear – that holds the most excitement.

During a pre-release look at the game, I was given an opportunity to talk to The Elder Scrolls Online’s creative director, Rich Lambert. I was after a behind-the-scenes insight into why the Warden was chosen as the new class, and what adding it to the game required from the team. Here is how the conversation went:

How many classes were you considering for this expansion, why did you go with the Warden and what came close but missed out?

RL: I don't want to talk too much about what missed out because that may set some people off, but when we really started trying to figure out what the next class was - or what we wanted to do - we began with a meta view. What is the player fantasy? Or what player fantasy is the one that everybody really wants? We already had the holy paladin type feel, and we had the dragon knight feel, and we had the sneaky guy that stabs you, and the wizard. What we didn't have was that ranger, nature magic type person. Someone who really focused on communing with the animals and doing that kind of stuff. And so, that's where we started with the Warden. From there we came up with a name and the scale lines and that stuff.

Did adding the Warden to the mix require you to go back and balance and tweak any other elements that were already existing in the game?

RL: Absolutely. That's why we don't generally do classes all the time. It's a hard thing to add new classes. We spent a great deal of time working on establishing a better baseline for all classes and overall game balance. One of the big things with the base game patch with Morrowind was to get back to our initial roots at launch where we were more action orientated. Where you were making decisions based on the resources you had available to you, rather than just being able to expand abilities as fast as possible. So, yeah, it took a lot of effort for the team to go through and look at all the classes and look at all the skill lines. Not to mention the champion point system and all the new gear. We had to put all those together and make sure that they were as balanced as possible across the board.

And I assume that the War Bear played into that as well?

RL: Oh yeah. That bear is the Warden’s ultimate ability in the animal companion line. And so we compared that to all the other ultimate abilities in Elder Scrolls Online and how they worked. That's where we got its costs and damage and all that other stuff.

It all sounds internally generated: how much attention was being paid to what fans were saying in the various parts of the web when deciding on the Warden?

Some of it was definitely taken from player feedback. We get a lot of feedback, either with /bug or /feedback or just on the forums and whatnot. But some of it was actually internal feedback as well. What is the fantasy that everybody thought Elder Scrolls Online was missing? So we put those two groups together and that's where we came up with the Warden.

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