The Elder Scrolls Online Interview: ‘Business Model Is What The Business Model Is’

Creative director Paul D. Sage discusses monthly subscription, PS4 and Xbox One versions, and just about everything that is Elder Scrolls Online.

The Elder Scrolls Online has seen a fair bit of controversy since its launch. A portion of the fan base are not happy with the monthly subscription and certain gameplay mechanics. GamingBolt was positive in its review for The Elder Scrolls Online but the game was not without issues. However the developers are hard at work resolving bugs, adding new content and at the same time working on the PS4 and Xbox One versions.

GamingBolt caught up with the game’s creative director Paul D. Sage to know what lies ahead for The Elder Scrolls Online. His response is below.

Leonid Melikhov: Ever since the game’s launch, Elder Scrolls Online has received a fair bit of criticism for monthly-subscription. Do you guys have plans to change that sometime in the future?

Paul D. Sage: No, we don’t have any plans that I am aware of to change it in the future. You know the business model is what the business model is and it allows us to deliver high level content on regular basis right now. So there are no plans that I am aware of.

Leonid Melikhov: The Elder Scrolls Online will be one of the few titles that will have subscription based service. Considering that games like Star Wars the Old Republic started out the same way but went free-to-play since subscription based model didn’t work, why not lean towards more of a free-to-play concept?

Paul D. Sage: You know again, we have no plans to change subscription plans.

the elder scrolls online

So we’ve actually really taken a huge step on making sure that the player experience is as good as it can be for reducing bugs. The developer team is fully committed since the very beginning of launch and even before to make sure all of the bugs were taken care of.

Leonid Melikhov: Okay. When the game launched it had a lot of bugs and kinks here and there. What steps have you taken to fix those?

Paul D. Sage: So we’ve actually really taken a huge step on making sure that the player experience is as good as it can be for reducing bugs. The developer team is fully committed since the very beginning of launch and even before to make sure all of the bugs were taken care of.

You know, when you have a large number of players like that, you see more bugs that kind of occur naturally. We’ve actually reduced our bug count significantly and even our call count went down on bugs. The team has made great strides, you can’t always guarantee everything will be bug free of course, but we’ve made a huge amount of bug fixes over the course of just one and a half months.

Leonid Melikhov: Sounds good. The Elder Scrolls series has always pride itself in delivering authentic and interesting NPCs, but Online was marred with repetitive voice-overs that made questing a chore in some cases. Is this something you will address at some point?

Paul D. Sage: So you know, I think our questing is always a matter of perspective whether it’s repetitive or not. I think our questing is pretty unique and the fact that it does deliver such a great story to the player. There are always going to be some repetitive voice actors because let’s face it even though we have (I don’t know how many voice actors we have) we have a-lot of , you’ll hear some kind of repeats of the same voice actor but we do a-lot to encourage diversity especially within the given time frame.

We kind of set it aside to where its “okay here is where you’ll likely run into it” but chances are you’ll hear a repeat and I think that’s a nature of trying to recreate a world.

Leonid Melikhov: Considering how many characters there are, it’s a little bit difficult not to recycle sometimes.

Paul D. Sage: Yes.

the elder scrolls online

So the game actually runs on PCs that are 5 years old and runs really well on those systems. So, actually we’ve found the transition pretty good. I mean there were always be some sort of small challenges associated with it but actually it’s been pretty good for both systems [PS4/Xbox One].

Leonid Melikhov: One of the brightest points about The Elder Scrolls Online was this vast and open world that players can explore in. Since it’s an MMO do have any plans to add more worlds?

Paul D. Sage: Add more land? Absolutely. We’ve just launched the Craiglorn update, which was this huge new piece. We’re introducing with our next update…well let’s see. It’s actually Crypt of Hearts that is on our public test server right now. There is a new veteran dungeon coming out soon it’s going to be called “City of Ash”. We’re going to release the “Region-free of Craglorn” coming out very soon as well. So yes, there is a lot more land coming in.

Leonid Melikhov: Sounds good. So the console versions are delayed. Do we have a release date and is it going to happen this year?

Paul D. Sage: (Laughs) – Were really not speculating on when the console release date is going to be at this point.

Leonid Melikhov: Okay. Are you targeting 1080p/60fps on the PS4 and Xbox One versions of The Elder Scrolls Online?

Paul D. Sage: So our targets are established in such a way that we provide the best quality experience. We are kind of internally running at 30fps already and we are going to keep seeing on what we can do to get the most out of the system[s]. You know, the big thing for us is in these large PvP maps is that we already have so many players on the screen. We just want to make sure that runs as smooth as possible and perfect.

Leonid Melikhov: Okay. Are you looking into Kinect support on the Xbox One version for The Elder Scrolls Online? Will there be any special features for the PlayStation 4 version, may be the touchpad on the DualShock 4?
Paul D. Sage: We’re not really discussing any special features yet.

Leonid Melikhov: Given that The Elder Scrolls Online is primarily developed for modern gaming PCs, did the slower clock speed of the Xbox One/PS4 posed any sort of development challenges?

Paul D. Sage: So the game actually runs on PCs that are 5 years old and it runs really well on those systems. So, actually we’ve found the transition pretty good. I mean there will always be some sort of small challenges associated with it but actually it’s been pretty good for both systems.

the elder scrolls online

We’re looking at adding in the Justice system which is where I can steal from NPCs and the NPCs will react to that, I can kill NPCs and NPCs will react to that. The coolest thing I think about that system is because it’s online we can allow players to not just steal and kill, but they can also become guards that’ll be act in justice.

Leonid Melikhov: What will the future of The Elder Scrolls Online be like in terms of post-launch content? There will be a heap of content for the collector’s editions and pre-order bonuses but what is next after that?

Paul D. Sage: There is a lot of things we’re looking into doing right now for post launch content. Obviously, we’re trying to keep a good pace for 4 to 3 weeks in between updates. We have those veteran dungeons that I’ve already talked about, but we are looking at things were looking at systematically and we want to see how the Veteran system works.

We’re looking at adding in the Justice system which is where players can steal from NPCs and the NPCs will react to that, I can kill NPCs and NPCs will react to that. The coolest thing I think about that system is because it’s online we can allow players to not just steal and kill, but they can also become guards and act in justice. So you’ll have a little bit of PvP in the real world in the Justice system.

Leonid Melikhov: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Paul D. Sage: Yeah, I think that if you haven’t tried it out you should come in and try it out. The game is only going to get better overtime. That’s one of the greatest things about a Massively Multiplayer game is just how much better these games get better overtime. Especially with player input and things of that nature, so yeah come in and give it a chance and play it.

Leonid Melikhov: Also, possibility of expansions?

Paul D. Sage: Actually we’re just concentrating on our updates right now. Even internally we haven’t really talked about expansions too much. We’re just looking at getting great updates to the players.

Leonid Melikhov: But is it possible?

Paul D. Sage: Anything is possible.

Leonid Melikhov: Sounds good. Thank you so much, appreciate it.

Paul D. Sage: Thank you.


  • Dex

    Nice interview. I really hope they stay away from expansions that force ppl to buy new content amongst an already controversial subscription based model.

    What use to work for PC may not flow well on consoles. I think this game will have a longer life on consoles IF IT releases in 2014 prior to Thanksgiving.

    If not they may as well sale it for $20 on console to everyone and forget costly expansions but build their subscription model to incorporate the expansion costs.

    • Dex

      Charge $5, $10 or $15 for in game digital items and create things that people will really pay for.

      Stuff like holiday items, horses, patterns or even more scrolls of Mara.
      I’d honestly pay for a staff that looked like a huge elder scrolls where the animations differ from all staves but the item would benefit destruction and healing.

      Go further and create a melee item that fits the above but not a scroll. IDK what it would be but these seems to be cause ppl to buy stuff

  • retaliate

    How can Sage say they’ve worked hard to fix things and pretend the launch had been anything but a tragedy?

    Duping exploits reported in beta were in the final game (among many other bugs) and the game was so full of bugs and bots that the game has bled about 80-85% of those who signed up for launch.

    Firor and Sage really are in their own bubble… but they can’t revise history… Zenimax Online Studios messed up so many things that the game flopped hard within 2 months of launch – that’s just the reality of the current situation.

    I hope they can resurrect it but they need to prioritize issues properly if they’re to stand a chance – bugs and exploits are a major issue, spewing out content on a buggy, exploitable platform will cause you to lose confidence from any experienced MMO gamer that has seen exploits abused in MMO games before.

  • Derp

    What I find laughable is how Sage says that you can never guarantee anything and how Matt Firor did prior to launch with saying that they will have a polished, lag free launch no matter where you live. (source: http://www.tesoelite.com/forums/threads/matt-firor-message-to-the-eso-community.1536/ )
    A lot of the bugs were reported in beta and were not fixed before launch, so to state they they worked on them before that is another comical essence.

  • Jeremy Alexander

    Awful game. I cancelled my sub after one month and one free month. I went through the Dominion and Daggerfall stories and they were almost exactly the same. The dungeons are all the same and have no character or personality, the game world is to small and progress is linear. The PVP was fun for a while, our group won and after that it just felt repetitive. This game is a mess. I’ll check back in a year and see if there has been any progress, but right now I just want the next single player game, maybe with optional 2 player co-op.

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