The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind – Naryu’s Guide to Vivec the Living God
Source: Bethesda Softworks
Who better to act as your personal tour guide than a legendary assassin? In our latest video series, Morag Tong assassin Naryu Virian takes you on a guided tour of the people and places of Vvardenfell, the setting for The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind. In this video, Naryu introduces you to one of the most important figures in all of Morrowind: Vivec the Living God.
Join the Morag Tong assassin Naryu Virian on a guided tour of the people and places of The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind. Starting with Vivec City, we’ll post a new video featuring another aspect of the Dark Elf homeland every week. Keep an eye out for future updates, and get ready to experience ESO: Morrowind for yourself on June 6!
THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: MORROWIND – NARYU’S GUIDE TO VIVEC CITY
THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: MORROWIND – NARYU’S GUIDE TO DWARVEN RUINS
THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: MORROWIND – NARYU’S GUIDE TO THE GREAT HOUSES
THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: MORROWIND – NARYU’S GUIDE TO THE WARDENS
On June 6, you’ll be able to experience new adventures in Vvardenfell for the first time in 15 years with ESO: Morrowind.
ESO: MORROWIND – BUILDING UPON THE PAST
VVARDENFELL FOR NEW AND OLD
When recreating the Dark Elves’ ancestral home, great care was taken to emulate Bethesda Game Studio’s 15-year-old classic, making it the perfect jumping on point for TES III veterans who are interested in The Elder Scrolls Online.
“We want the TES III players to feel like they’re coming back home,” says the game’s Creative Director, Rich Lambert. “So we spent a lot of time recreating all the locations that they know from TES III in ESO: Morrowind.”
The best example of this can be found in the very first location you will visit when you arrive in Vvardenfell: Seyda Neen. The starting location in TES III is also the first place you visit after the tutorial in ESO: Morrowind, and the port town’s wooden docks and Census and Excise Office should seem very familiar to you if you played the original game.
When building Vvardenfell in ESO: Morrowind, it was important to the team to faithfully recreate and build upon all of TES III’s most iconic locations. If you are an Elder Scrolls veteran, you’ll be able to once more experience Vivec City, Sadrith Mora, the Great Houses, the Ordinators, Silt Striders, and everything else that makes the game’s unique setting so special.
“There are Elder Scrolls players who haven’t yet had a chance to play The Elder Scrolls Online, and so with ESO: Morrowind, we really wanted to pique their interest,” says Lambert. “We wanted to show them that they can go back to Vvardenfell and experience something new but also familiar.”
BUILDING AN OLD WORLD
Crafting the Dark Elf homeland comes with its own unique challenges, but it begins and ends withTES III.
“When building Vvardenfell in ESO:Morrowind, we started with TES III,” says ESO’s Art Director, Jared Carr. “We grabbed the height map directly from the original game and used that as a starting point for building the terrain, and we referenced TES III‘s key architecture styles for the structures.”
By using the original game’s height map, the team was able to place each location exactly where it should be and ensured that the island’s topography was recreated faithfully.
It’s not just the size and shape of the island itself that’ll seem familiar. As you venture from coast to coast, you will recognize the stylings of House Hlaalu, House Redoran, and House Telvanni from the original game. Even locations such as the ancestral tombs will be instantly recognizable to Elder Scrolls players.
“The whole goal is to take the original game and world and re-envision it so that it’s more detailed.”
Of course, when building Vvardenfell, the team also looked outside of the game for reference material, and when designing furnishings and the smaller, more intimate items, the team looked to real-world influences to build out the world and Dunmer culture.
“Everything we do in ESO is a combination of an established aesthetic that draws influence from the real world,” says Carr. “It’s what makes the Elder Scrolls believable.”
UNIQUE STORIES IN THE FAMILIAR
ESO: Morrowind is set 700 years before the events of TES III, and a lot has changed in that time. Most notably, with Dagoth Ur and the Ash Storms yet to come, the island’s flora and fauna is very different, giving the development team an opportunity to create new experiences and give some classic areas a new look.
The best example might be found in Balmora. In ESO: Morrowind, you will notice that while the iconic city still has the familiar buildings and bridges, it is also surrounded by trees and dense vegetation. Not at all like the dusty township of the original game.
In addition to this, the development team has the tech to add even more elements to the world than was previously possible. This means that while there is a strong connection to the original game, the team had the space and the tools to fill out the world.
“With ESO: Morrowind, we were able to add a lot of additional detail,” says Carr. “It’s 15 years later in development time, and with our game engine we can get more into the world than ever.”
You can see this in the intricacies of the murals in Vivec’s Palace and Cantons of Vivec City or in the level of detail in the monsters that roam Vvardenfell’s tombs and wilderness.
The game’s setting in the Second Era also allows the team to develop unique aspects of the series’ lore, creating opportunities for the team to tell brand new stories. For example, in ESO: Morrowind, you will have the opportunity to see and learn about the Telvanni mushroom towers and how they came to be – something that hasn’t yet been explored in Elder Scrolls lore.
RETURN TO MORROWIND
Are you a veteran Elder Scrolls player returning to Morrowind after 15 years? Or is this the first time you’ll ever experience the home of the Dark Elves? We’d love to hear about which parts of the island you plan to visit first on Twitter @TESOnline and on Facebook.
You can read more about ESO: Morrowindhere.
ESO: MORROWIND CONCEPT ARTIST Q&A AND WALLPAPER
When tasked with creating this new key art illustration of the Warden, how do you determine what to paint?
The whole process begins with discussions with our art director about what elements or ideas he wants to feature. In this case, we wanted to depict the Warden in a way that would highlight the signature characteristics of the class, which suggested a combat scene as well as the inclusion of the Warden’s Feral Guardian ultimate. We also wanted to showcase a location from Morrowind, since the Warden will be debuting alongside the new zone.
Based on those initial conversations, I begin to sketch out a variety of action beats, exploring a lot of different compositions and narrative premises that players usually never end up seeing, since we can only take one sketch through to completion. In this case, it became clear that given the Warden’s connection with the forces of nature, the ecology of Vvardenfell itself deserved to be highlighted as a character in the image.
We talked about emphasizing the island as a place of constant destruction and rebirth, which symbolically mirrors both the aggressive and restorative aspects of the Warden’s Skill Lines. This approach is what ultimately led us to the standoff between two Dunmer Wardens and a group of Cliff Striders, with the Red Mountain looming in the background.
What’s the rest of the process like for completing the illustration?
After I get approval on the selected sketch, I start to gather the reference imagery that I will use to refine the line drawing and add in additional details. It’s a strange quirk of my process that initially, I tend to sketch all the characters as semi-naked bald dudes, but that’s just to save time until I gather the right reference to represent the various races of Tamriel and the specific armor sets from the game.
Reference gathering is one of the most important parts of the process, and it makes a huge difference in the quality of the final painting. Pinterest boards tend to be helpful for finding useful reference, but I will also often shoot my own photos, using myself or friends as models to help figure out facial expressions and the trickier parts of character poses.
Once the drawing is completed, I typically paint a grayscale value study of the composition underneath the line drawing and then begin painting in color on top of it. From that point on, it’s just the long, laborious process of rendering and detailing the image, with lots of revisions along the way.
How long does a process like this usually take, and what tools do you use?
Including the sketching phase, the whole process can take up to eight weeks, which is a long time, but I work at a high pixel resolution (the full-size file for the Warden illustration is over 12,000 pixels wide!)
Sometimes a change in art direction or marketing focus requires that I revise the original composition in the middle of the painting process. That can make things take longer, but one of the things I appreciate about our approach here at ZOS is that everyone is committed to delivering art at the highest possible quality.
As for the tools I use, I work on a Wacom Cintiq 22HD, and do my sketching and painting exclusively in Photoshop. When I need to build a rough 3D scene for perspective reference, I use Maya, mostly because that’s the software package I learned to use way back when I was a 3D Production Artist. I also occasionally shoot photo reference using my GoPro camera, which is helpful when I’m acting as my own reference model because I’m able to control the camera remotely with my phone.
Was there any aspect of the Warden that you found especially challenging or fun to illustrate?
I’d have to say the most frustrating part of this piece was probably painting the spectral magic effects for the Wardens’ spellcasting. We went through a number of variations, but the image kept becoming overwhelmed by the magic as a lightsource, and in the end I had to scale it way back. Also, bonemold armor is a cool idea, but I found it difficult to paint convincingly (maybe because there’s no good real-world equivalent for it.)
As for the fun stuff, I love painting faces, and taking a crack at the Dunmer facial physiognomy was a blast. For some reason, I also really enjoyed adding the spittle flying off the bear’s mouth. After a long and challenging painting process on the rest of the image, adding that saliva was a satisfying finishing touch.
How did you get started in a career as a concept artist?
I majored in Illustration in college, and although I got a good foundational education learning traditional oil painting techniques, I didn’t have much experience with digital workflows. Concept art is a really tough field to break into, so when I realized my portfolio needed more development in order to be considered a serious candidate for industry jobs, I decided to go back to grad school to focus more specifically on art for video games.
I earned my MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010, and following a summer internship with WB Games in Boston, they hired me as a 3D Production Artist. After about a year there, I managed to weasel my way onto their concept art team, and I spent the next four years creating concept art and illustrations for The Lord of the Rings Online, Infinite Crisis, and Arkham: Underworld. I joined ZOS in 2015, and since then, I’ve had the privilege of painting the key art illustrations that accompany new content updates for The Elder Scrolls Online!
Love the illustration? Click the links below to download the wallpaper for your desired resolution.
Is this action-packed scene your new background? Let us know what you think of it on Twitter @TESOnline.
For more information about ESO: Morrowind and the Warden, click here.
ESO: MORROWIND – WARDEN DEVELOPER Q&A
The Warden has a nature-based theme, making them unique in comparison to The Elder Scrolls Online’s original four classes. How did you come to the decision to give this theme to the game’s first new class?
Wrobel: It is important for us that players are able to express themselves in lots of different ways, and you can see this design principal with the flexibility that each of the current classes have.
When trying to create this new class, we analyzed the core components of our game to find out what was missing. From there, we brainstormed an entire ability suite for different classes and themes, refined the best ideas, and then picked a winner – the Warden and their nature-based abilities!
Building a brand new class is obviously a major task that involves multiple teams within the studio. Could you walk us through the process for the Warden’s creation from start to finish?
Wrobel: First, we came up with the Warden’s base design and vision for how the class will look and feel. We then added the code needed to for the class’ new features. For example, we added functionality that can help players direct their pets to attack a specific target. Next, our concept art team created a foundation for class visuals moving forward.
The design team then built out the abilities in our editor before having our animation team create character animations that match the Warden’s visual style. The effects team then gets to work to create swirling leaves, vines and other particles that sync up with the character animations. VFX has to go after animations to ensure that they play at the correct time.
At this point, the design team begins to balance, playtest, refine, and polish the class, and the audio team creates the sounds that syncs up with animation and VFX timings. Audio is the final part of the pipeline because their work requires everything else to be finalized.
Throughout the entire process, QA is testing after each phase and when new elements are added, and then finally, the class is ready for testing by the community!
The Elder Scrolls Online features a wealth of PvE and PvP content for both solo and group players. What challenges did you encounter when building a new class for these different types of game experiences?
Wrobel: We had to identify some core components of PvE and PvP content in the game. In PvE we wanted to make a damage rotation that felt unique, while still being as effective as other classes.
With PvP we wanted to make sure players had the ability to deal burst damage. Our initial concept for the War Bear didn’t include an activated ability, and we found that it wasn’t exciting to have an ultimate that you just summoned once and then hung around as a passive bonus. It also didn’t feel like you and the bear were a team. Adding an execute to the bear solved both of these problems and made the Warden more dangerous in PvP.
How important was it to ensure that the Warden is able to perform multiple roles (damage, tanking, healing) from just their class Skill Lines?
Wrobel: This was a pillar of the class’s design. ESO: Morrowind is a great opportunity for new players to experience The Elder Scrolls Online for the first time, so we wanted a class that was easy to pick up, yet difficult to master. When we came up with the ideas for Animal Companions, Green Balance, and Winter’s Embrace, they each had to fit into one of these molds.
We did move some of the Skill Lines around as we were designing them to see what best fit. For example, we were playing with the idea of having Winter’s Embrace exclusively deal damage, but when trying to make an entire class’ Skill Lines, the other options made less sense for a tanking tree. There are only so many abilities you can make out of mudcrab armor!
How do you ensure the Warden is balanced when ESO: Morrowind launches, and what data do you collect to help make changes in the future?
Wrobel: We compared Warden abilities on a 1-for-1 basis to the other class abilities, as well as looking globally at each class in terms of its damage and resources. With ESO: Morrowind, we performed an analysis of ability costs against resource recovery rates for all classes to make sure everything is even.
Player feedback (collected from forums, social, or in-game reports) is also very important to us, too, and we often use it as discussion points in our design meetings. Most often, it points us to specific areas of the game that we then investigate further with extensive play testing and data validation.
Once players get their hands on the Warden, our business intelligence team captures data about the decisions they are making. We know about all the most popular abilities, morphs, gear, Mundus stones, etc. We can then take and filter this data to create a model of what Wardens are doing in PvP, PvE, and at lower levels, helping us find where adjustments need to be made.
The Warden’s ability animations appear as natural, flowing motions. When building these abilities, what kind of direction did you receive, and how much freedom did you have to create something unique?
Littlefield: We were given a clear and broad direction from the gameplay team, allowing us to have a lot of creative freedom. The final goal was to tell the story of each ability through the Warden’s animations, effects, and sounds complementing each other. From an animation perspective, every move is calculated and methodical, with flourish!
The Warden possess a varied set of powers. Were there any unique Skill Lines or abilities that were especially challenging to animate?
Littlefield: The Warden was one of the smoothest productions I have ever worked on. One challenging aspect of the Warden was finding a way to tell the story of an ability with an instant cast time (less than half a second). We were able to create strong poses for the first 15 frames of the animation, leaving the remaining 2-3 seconds to support the storytelling.
How did you approach creating separate distinguishable effects for each Skill Line for the Warden while preserving a single overall style?
Blaize: We tried to use a similar set of textures and colors across all the Warden abilities, while using unique elements to distinguish the abilities from each other. For example, the mushrooms of Fungal Growth and the cliff racer in Dive use a similar shader and dissolve technique, but also still have their own very different shapes.
Despite being able to perform all the core roles, the Warden’s abilities look and feel different from any of ESO’s other classes. How did you ensure the effects for the Warden’s abilities stood out as recognizably unique?
Blaize: The first step was to choose a unique color profile for the Warden that none of the other classes have. We chose a combination of teal and dark blue. In order to make the Warden’s abilities feel more impactful, we often coupled models and animations together, better reflecting the fact that they are conjuring beasts, natural vegetation, or ice.
Finally, is there any aspect of the Warden that you are particularly fond or proud of?
Blaize: I’m particularly happy with the way the Warden looks overall, but if I have to pick a favorite ability effect, I’ll say Secluded Grove. It really captures the feel of the Warden’s area-targeted nature-based healing magic, and the animations for the character and the trees sync up very nicely.
Littlefield: There are two abilities that are very special to me: the Betty Netch and Feral Guardian from the Animal Companions Skill Line. I love animating pets, and being able to combine the player and the “pet” animations was something I always wanted to do. For both of these abilities, the pet’s movement follows the player’s cast, creating a visual bond between them.
Wrobel: Well this is cheesy, but I’m most proud of the team that created the Warden. This class had the greatest level of collaboration that I’ve seen from the team and the fusion between art and gameplay disciplines has led to something amazing. It’s also great to see industry veterans accepting and mentoring newer members of the team. I’m proud to see how far we’ve come, and excited to see where we go from here.
For more information about ESO: Morrowind and the Wardens, click here.
ESO: MORROWIND – INTRODUCING THE HALLS OF FABRICATION
DISCOVER THE CLOCKWORK CITY
Ancient and deadly clockwork automata are spilling forth from a mysterious magicka conduit, and you and your companions must enter the rift, discover the Clockwork City’s Halls of Fabrication, and shut down the Assembly General.
In the Halls of Fabrication, you and your team will uncover the secrets of Sotha Sil’s experiments and put an end to the Fabricant threat. You will not be alone, however, as you will be assisted by the mysterious and powerful Dunmer sorcerer Divayth Fyr himself!
If you played through The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, you’ll recognize the classic Elder Scrolls character. As Divayth guides you throughout the halls of Sotha Sil’s complex, he will offer (mostly) helpful advice for dealing with the Fabricant threat. Pay close attention to the Telvanni sorcerer, as he could provide clues regarding some of the Trial’s more challenging mechanics!
FIGHT THROUGH UNENDING MACHINES
“In the Halls of Fabrication, we’re trying to give players new and interesting mechanics that they haven’t’ seen before and that they can’t necessarily get anywhere else in The Elder Scrolls Online,” says the Trial’s Dungeon Lead, Mike Finnigan.
“The amount of coordination and teamwork that it takes to complete this Trial is something we haven’t done before,” says Finnigan. “We wanted to make the Halls of Fabrication a full group experience.” This philosophy can be found in the Trial’s mechanics-heavy nature, the requirement for specific roles, and need for a high level of team organization.
“You’re going to need to have two tanks, you’re going to need to pay attention to what you’re doing, and you’re going to need to watch your environment.”
The Halls of Fabrication are a clockwork facility, so it is not just the automata that you have to worry about – your team will also find themselves contending with all manners of traps and hazards.
“We didn’t have any real environmental hazards in previous Trials, but the Halls of Fabrication is very heavy on them,” says Finnigan. “You have shock walls, you have spinning blade traps, you have all kinds of nasty stuff going on.” Watch your step!
The Halls of Fabrication will have five bosses to overcome, each with challenging new mechanics that you’ll need to learn. In addition to this, there are fewer enemies between each boss fight, meaning you’ll be moving from boss to boss relatively quickly.
“We learned a lot of lessons from the previous Trials. For example, the Trial Sanctum Ophidia had four bosses, but it had a ton of smaller fights in between,” says Finnigan. “The focus in the Halls of Fabrication is to have players spend most of their time fighting bosses after briefly telegraphing their mechanics in the base population.” If you enjoy challenging mechanics with an emphasis on boss battles, you’re going to enjoy the Halls of Fabrication.
PLUNDER SOTHA SIL’S CREATION
Of course, given the Halls of Fabrication’s unique and deadly challenges, we don’t expect you to brave the Trial without suitable rewards. While battling your way through the complex, you’ll be able to earn parts of four brand-new armor sets, including, for example, the War Machine set, which gives you and your closest allies Major Slayer (granting a bonus to damage in dungeons and Trials) when you use an ultimate ability.
You can also earn unique Furnishings (a trophy bust) and even a brand new skin. If you’re a master crafter, you can also buy plans for two Target Centurions, which can only be built with materials earned as weekly rewards from the Halls.
Finally, there are a host of unique Achievements that you can earn when you complete the Halls of Fabrication (rewarding unique dyes and titles), including some specifically designed for the most hardcore players. For example, the Like Clockwork Achievement requires you complete the Halls of Fabrication within 40 minutes on Veteran Hard Mode with zero deaths.
“With the Maw of Lorkhaj Trial, we had players who were bragging about doing a no-death Veteran Hard Mode run, but we didn’t have an achievement for that – they just did it!” says Finnigan. “We definitely heard the feedback regarding Achievements in previous Trials.” In the Halls of Fabrication, you and your team will be rewarded for completing it in the most challenging way possible. Good luck!
DIVAYTH FYR NEEDS YOU!
When navigating the Halls of Fabrication, your team will be tested like never before. Will you brave Sotha Sil’s creation and put a stop to the endless march of the automatons? You can experience this new PvE challenge in ESO: Morrowind on June 6. Let us know what you think about the new Trial on Twitter @TESOnline and Facebook!
For more information about ESO: Morrowind, click here.