The upcoming One Tamriel Update for The Elder Scrolls Online is one of the most ambitious overhauls for any MMO of its size. Active on the game's PTS server as Update 12 since yesterday and arriving as a full release in October, the update is all about accessibility, mainly by giving players the ability to explore all of Tamriel while re-scaling the leveling system to give newcomers a fighting chance when grouped with veterans in PvE. I had the opportunity to interview Rich Lambert, Creative Director on ESO, at PAX West 2016 about the many controversial changes that the update will bring to the table.
In general, Lambert wanted to emphasize that the One Tamriel removes restrictions on content, grouping, and alliances, so that new or returning players can pair with level-capped veterans, which will let friends and family play with each other in the game without requiring veterans to make a low-level alt account. Beyond that, every zone has been modified so that you can solo most of the quests, with only a few requiring you to group with another player.
Dungeons, however, will require a full party, and all dungeons will now have both a Normal and Veteran difficulty, making it both easier for newcomers to access a dungeon but also providing more challenge to veteran players. Knowing that veterans might feel snubbed by the update, Lambert wanted to ensure that they will still feel powerful. Even with the rebalancing, veterans will have plenty of skills and gear that new characters won't. Veteran dungeons will now guarantee Monster Mask rewards, and there will be many new set pieces that will drop from bosses and dungeons that are scaled to your character's level.
Given the epic scale of the One Tamriel update, there are plenty of nitty-gritty details in the One Tamriel update, like item standardization across all zones, though some fans suspect that Zenimax Game Studios and Bethesda had always wanted this update to be applied since the beginning of the game. Lambert says that the concept for the One Tamriel update didn't start until they began creating expansions for the game; over time, they realized that they just wanted to remove all of the seemingly unnecessary barriers of entry so that more players can access the DLC. This lead them to test out what would happen if they lifted the restrictions not just with the DLC, but applied it to the entirety of the main game.
With that in mind, I asked Lambert a hypothetical. If the developers could go back in time to when ESO launched on April 4, 2014, would they have redesigned the game to include the One Tamriel update from the very start:
I know we wouldn't be doing One Tamriel if it didn't make the game better, so you know, if we had go back and do it all over again, yes.
You learn things every time you do something or make something, and [One Tamriel] is one of those things where we would probably do that.
The other major controversial addition in the One Tamriel update is the Crown Crate, an exclusive set available for purchase in the Crown Store that will contain a random selection of consumables, cosmetic items, and mounts, with some being limited-time offers and throwbacks to items that are no longer available. Many users, particularly those who have purchased as many cosmetic items as possible, fear that this “gambling box” will ruin the game and are essentially cash grabs that don't need to exist.
To address this concern, Lambert wanted to point out that while the Crown Crate is randomized, any item that you receive from the crate that are duplicates of something you already own will be converted into Crown Gems. These gems are freeform currency that will allow you to outright purchase the item you really want out of the Crown Crate. Now hopefully the Crown Gem prices of each item will be low enough to reduce the luck-based randomization of the Crown Crate.
In anticipation of One Tamriel, The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Edition will release in September and will include the first four DLC of the game. New and returning players (of which I will be one of them) may want to wait until One Tamriel launches in October before picking up the Gold Edition, but at least the offer is there to make the leap (or the leap back) into ESO as easy to pick up as possible.