Only one member of the original Morrowind team worked on new Elder Scrolls Online chapter

Chris Stead 5 June 2017

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind brings a new perspective to the iconic island of Vvardenfell.

Fans are justifiably excited about the upcoming Morrowind chapter expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online. While the MMO may have had some teething problems at launch, it’s now a finely-tuned, glorious to behold RPG that you can enjoy and experience with thousands of other humans. The Morrowind expansion is the first full chapter added to the game since its launch in 2014, joining a host of small DLC packs. It adds a new class (Warden), new combat ally (War Bear), a new quest line, a new PvP mode and plenty more.

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In fact, it’s an entirely new entry point into the world, built to allow new players to jump into Tamriel starting from Morrowind. I’ve played through the opening hours, and it’s an immersive start. Sticking to the series’ signature “escapee starting a new life” setup, I was happy with how quickly it gets you into the action. That first moment of roaming out into the wilds and the complete sense of freedom that comes with it is within quick reach.

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As many of you would know, the game is not being developed at Bethesda Game Studios like the main series. Instead, it is being developed at sister company Zenimax Online Studios, which formed in 2007 with the specific task of taking Elder Scrolls online. But did anyone from the team that worked on the release of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind make it across to the creation of this expansion? I was granted the opportunity to talk to creative director Rich Lambert about The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind’s development, so I asked him the question…

Read: What Lambert said about the challenge of adding the Warden class
Read: Lambert details the inspiration behind Battlegrounds PVP

When you were playing through The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, it always felt it would be great if there were other humans in there with you. What was the hardest thing about turning Tamriel into an MMO?

The biggest “gotcha” moment, and it sounds really silly, was trying to keep that single player experience, and make it work in multiplayer with lots of people. So Skyrim with thousands and thousands and thousands of people. That's not an easy thing to do. As you're exploring in the single player Elder Scrolls games, when you come across a big baddy, you can deal with it anyway you want. In ESO, you have to worry about what happens if another player comes in and takes it from you. Or what if another player is actively trying to prevent you from getting it? So, you have to deal with that multiplayer component and that makes it very difficult.

So did you try and control that a little bit? Or do you just have to accommodate for its existence?

We tried a bunch of different things at launch and some were more successful than others. But we've pretty much hit our stride now where we try to be as inclusive as possible in all of our multiplayer aspects. For example, if I'm in a group and I'm doing a quest with somebody, we share progress rather than each person doing things individually. Or if we're going after the same monster we both get credit for attacking it even though we're not grouped. Those kinds of things.

At what point in the production of Elders Scrolls Online did you know that Morrowind was going to be an expansion?

I'd say probably pretty early on. I mean, we have the mainland of Morrowind already in the game. What we didn't have was the island of Vvardenfell. Once we realised that we didn’t have the most iconic place in Elders Scrolls history, the island of Vvardenfell, we knew we had to get it in. It just made sense to do that as the next chapter.

Revisiting the iconic locations in Morrowind is a pretty big thrill for fans. Are there any members of the team who worked on the original game and what have they said about the experience of going back?

We have one artist who has been with the company for 16 years and he worked on some of the art for Morrowind. I don't know if he's had the chance to sit down and actually play through what's currently live, however. I am definitely a huge fanboy and I worked on The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, so I started pretty much right after Morrowind launched. It's been really cool to go back and play those places and see them as I remember them, but different.

While we’re sure that a significant chunk of the Zenimax Online Studios team would consider themselves huge fans of 2002’s The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, it’s surprising only one member of the original game’s crew is involved in this chapter expansion. However, this isn’t necessarily a negative. A set of fresh eyes and fresh ideas can only enhance the Morrowind we already knew.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind is launching on 6 June or PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game is free to play once purchased, there’s no ongoing subscription.

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