Gamescom 2018: Murkmire is the Next Big Location for Elder Scrolls Online (Interview)

August 27, 2018

The Elder Scrolls Online has started to find a rhythm to its update structure, with big releases like Morrowind and Summerset in the past couple of years followed up with additional content packs that keep a steady stream of content flowing to new players. At Gamescom, Matt Firor, director on The Elder Scrolls Online, was kind enough to flesh out for us not only on Summerset’s success, but what’s in store in the near future.

“The reception has been fantastic.” Matt shares, smiling.

“We started this idea of chapters last year with Morrowind and that was really successful. We have this cadence that we built up now where we have big content drops in the second quarter every year and then smaller DLC’s around that and then a story one at the end of the year. That worked well last year, and this year we’re doing the same thing.”

“No-one’s been to Summerset since 1994 in Elder Scrolls 1, so it’s kind of a bookend with Morrowind which was very much nostalgic, and everybody remembered what exactly it was like, whereas Summerset’s more I want to go to a new place where I may never have been before.”

“There was reference material we had from Elder Scrolls 1 but it was far less than we had for Morrowind, so it was the right combination of having things people were expecting to see there, but we had a lot of leeway to make a big high fantasy experience.”

“Now, I think we’ve found our rhythm and we’ve found our ‘thing’ – it’s great storytelling, great characters, recurring characters and really just a huge, expansive game. Actually, I say this a lot, but if you get five different ESO players and ask them to describe the game, you’ll probably get five different answers because one will be totally Elder Scrolls play solo, one will be just PvP, one will be in a crafting guild and sell things, and one will just want to run dungeons and trials, all of that is part of the same game and that’s what makes it so good.”

Wolfhunter, the last update to the game focused on werewolves, was released a couple of weeks before our interview, but the next big story-centric update down the line in Q4 this year is Murkmire.

Murkmire is something players have been asking us forever about.” says Matt, “In 2014 we did a presentation after initial launch of ‘here’s the stuff we’re working on thinking about’, and one of the things we showed back then was a video concept on an area called Murkmire. It’s evolved a lot over the years, but we’re finally going to launch it four-and-a-half years later. It’s what players have been asking us for a long time, a deep dave into Argonian lore and culture, because Argonians as a race have been in every Elder Scrolls game but there’s never been any lore specific to them that the players can explore. We had one launch zone based in Blackmarsh called Shadowfen, but that was a border area with a lot of Dark Elf influence and Imperial influence, but Murkmire is going to be an actual Argonian zone.”

“Players will start to understand more about why they speak so weirdly, their religion and their culture. Of course, being an Elder Scrolls game, we’re not going to give everything away. There has to be some interpretation, because that’s what the game’s all about.”

As for the reasons behind Murkmire‘s long wait on the shelf before primetime, Matt says it was just a matter of time before they gave the Argonians the spotlight.

“We have a roadmap of things we know we’re going to do but then we have these things that we always want to play with and experiment with. Murkmire was one of those things. You know, when we sat down to talk to each other then [four years ago], we really wanted to do Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood… more traditional Elder Scrolls things. And then that led to Morrowind and then that led to Summerset, so that was kind of the progression. It’s something we always wanted to do, we just wanted to make sure we nailed those other things first.”

As for Gamescom itself, Matt had a community event with European fans lined up, that’s just another sign of the continually growing fanbase for Elder Scrolls Online.

“Now our community events are getting bigger and bigger. The venue we had this year is bigger than venue we had last year and twice as many people applied to come this year than the venue could actually hold, so we’ll need a bigger one this year. I think that’s now it’s a mature game there’s a culture growing up around it, we have a lot of cosplayers, we have a lot of people that just love Tamriel, that just love Elder Scrolls.”