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With just a couple of weeks left in 2022, we're treated to this here Producer's Letter for The Elder Scrolls Online where ZeniMax Online Studios’ director Matt Firor discusses another big year for Bethesda's MMORPG and shares his team's plans for 2023.
Check it out:
As we approach the end of 2022, it's once again time to share some thoughts on where ESO is and to look ahead at what is in store for the game in the new year. In 2023, ESO will see an amazing Chapter as well as some long-requested changes to the types of content that we will deliver—based largely on community feedback.
But before we get into all the details, 2022 is ending as we wind down the Legacy of the Bretons storyline. We were very happy to welcome the millions of new ESO players who joined over the course of 2022, which featured two new localizations: Spanish and Simplified Chinese. We returned to live in-person events with another amazing and fun ESO Tavern in Germany this August. It was a great year, and even better in that we got to start traveling again and seeing you all in person!
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the issues with Update 36, which launched just this last November. It introduced far too many bugs and issues, and even as I write this, we are still chasing down issues with blocking in combat. Trust me, I am just as concerned about this as you all are, and we will be making some process changes within the Dev Team to ensure that things like this happen far more rarely. With an ageing code base (which is 26 million lines of code… really!) it is difficult to be 100% efficient, but we can be far, far better and we know it.
ESO Looking Forward
In general, there are two types of content in ESO: hand-crafted, such as quests, stories and things you do one time per character; and systems, which are activities that are generally repeatable such as PvP, dungeons, trials, housing, daily crafting writs, etc. We have always had a mix of the two types of content, but in terms of Dev Team hours, the majority of time developing the game has been weighted towards questing content.
As I mentioned above, the big news for 2023 is that based in significant part on player feedback, we are now at the point where we are reassessing the balance of hand-crafted "one-and-done" storytelling content versus repeatable game activities.
ESO is a massive game with a huge number of zones, quests, and systems. We have created 40 or so hours of hand-built content EVERY YEAR since 2015, as well as a myriad of dungeons and new systems like One Tamriel, thieving, assassinations, companions, Tales of Tribute, antiquities, crafting writs, housing, graphical character customization, solo/group arenas, PVP battlegrounds, and much more.
Now that we have hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds!) of hours of questing content, enough for four or five regular RPGs, we are hearing from our new players that the sheer number of zones and stories and characters is intimidating. And, on the other hand, our veteran players consistently tell us that they would like more content that isn't played through just once—they would like more content they can enjoy for years; content that utilizes our already existing zones to add new things to do, and most importantly, introduces some new gameplay.
Moving Forward to 2023
Given the above, 2023 will see us moving away from the "Year Long Adventure” 12-month storylines that we have featured since 2019's Season of the Dragon. I think these have run their course and frees us up to do some new and interesting content that we've been wanting to do for a few years now—and lets us return to expansive story arcs that unfold over multiple Chapters. This year-long strategy was a huge success and raised the profile of ESO, but now after four straight years, we're finding more and more that this cadence limits what we can do.
So, below is the 2023 content cadence. Please note that the first half of the year remains essentially unchanged, but the second half of the year now has an update devoted to addressing issues/quality of life improvements and an update devoted to a large new tentpole system.
Looking back at ESO's evolution since 2014, you can see that we often shake things up, try new things, and make changes as needed. So, we will assess how this new cadence is received—both by the development team and in the community. If we have to make more adjustments, we will.
- Q1: Dungeon DLC.
- Q2: Full-featured Chapter in June. The 2023 ESO Chapter will be a complete story: you will be able to play all the way through it without a storyline that is broken out and reserved for later in the year. We will return to larger/better and more detailed Chapters by doing this. We are REALLY excited about next year's Chapter—for details, you'll have to wait for our Global Reveal Event in January. But one hint: this will be part one of a multi-year story arc and will contain one of the most requested new features.
- Q3: Focus on Quality-of-Life improvements and bug fixes.
- Q4: Rather than the usual zone DLC, we'll be featuring a new system. We are working on the concept and design for this now; we’ll give more details during our Global Reveal Event early next year.
Hardware & Server Updates
We are in the home stretch of upgrading and replacing all ESO datacenter hardware—which of course has been significantly delayed by the ongoing global slowdown of sourcing computer hardware. Once complete, ESO’s servers and infrastructure will be much more reliable, and as we saw from the one Realm that has been upgraded so far (PC North America) there will be some performance improvements as well.
Almost all the hardware should be delivered and in place by December and then we'll need a month or two to install and test everything before we shift over to the new hardware. Please note that we will be prioritizing all three Realms in the EU datacenter first, and then will return to the NA datacenter to finish moving Xbox and PlayStation Realms there. We are as frustrated as you that this has taken so long—but it is happening and will be done and ready for all players, probably in late February or March of 2023.
Our multi-threading work continues, as we announced a month or so back. Just to remind everyone, this is the initiative that will result in better overall server performance. As we already announced, we will be phasing these changes in over the course of 2023, starting with the Chapter in Q2. We’ll keep everyone updated in patch notes going forward.
ESO Fan Gatherings in 2023
We have wanted to have a mass gathering of ESO fans in North America for years, and I'm very happy to say that we will be having an in-person gathering this spring somewhere in the United States. Stay tuned for details, but you can expect to get hands-on with the new Chapter, see presentations from the Dev and Community teams, and of course, spend some time with fellow ESO players. We are definitely looking forward to seeing you North American fans in person! And of course, we will see our European community again in the summer at the ESO Tavern; stay tuned for details on that as well.
As you can see, we’ve got some big plans for the future of ESO, and we can’t wait to share more about what is coming to Tamriel in 2023 and beyond. As always, my heartfelt thanks to the ESO community for their role in the continued evolution of The Elder Scrolls Online. Your passion for the game, including its world and stories, is inspiring to us as developers, and we believe that Tamriel in the Second Era wouldn’t be the same without your own characters, communities, and yes, feedback. Here’s to another exciting year for The Elder Scrolls Online—see you in Tamriel!