An Elder Scrolls Online journey: From peril to Fantasy paradise in a decade

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During an exclusive interview with Dexerto, Elder Scrolls Online creative director Rich Lambert reflected on the multiplayer game, recounting its creation, the less-than-perfect launch that followed, where things stand today, and of course, what the future holds for the Elder Scrolls community.

When Elder Scrolls Online was first announced back in 2012, fans were both excited but apprehensive about the new title. After all, the franchise is known for its giant single-player experiences. The concept of bringing this Fantasy franchise to the online world was something completely new.

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During an exclusive interview with Dexerto, Elder Scrolls Online creative director Rich Lambert walked us through how the game came to be. From early concept ideas, deciding on when and where to set the title within the Elder Scrolls series, and figuring out the logistics of the multiplayer experience, continue reading as we dive deep into the journey of Elder Scrolls Online almost 10 years on from launch.

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Elder Scrolls Online has become a juggernaut for Bethesda over the past decade.

Nagging Todd Howard for an online Elder Scrolls game

Closing in on two decades of experience at Bethesda, Lambert was a pioneer for the multiplayer Elder Scrolls experience, pushing the concept from the get-go. However, the journey to getting the game up and running was one years in the making.

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“My first game there was Oblivion and I would go pretty regularly into [Todd Howard’s] office and just say, ‘Hey, we need to make an online version of this.’ Then one day he called me into his office. Matt Firor was there… to basically make an online studio and make ESO.”

As one of the first to voice this idea and concept, Lambert was an obvious choice to work on Elder Scrolls Online. “Todd pleaded with him to take me because I think he was a little tired of me going in saying, hey, we should make this an online game. Matt and I chatted for like four hours that day and he hired me and the rest is history.”

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Elder Scrolls Online’s place within the greater lore of the franchise

Like any good Fantasy franchise, Elder Scrolls is rich with extensive lore. While each game is set in particular periods of the ever-expanding universe, exploration allows players to understand the past and gain a greater understanding of each and every race found within Elder Scrolls.

For Lambert and the rest of the Elder Scrolls Online team, deciding when the game would take place was one of the most important, and difficult, decisions.

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Elder Scrolls is one of the most beloved Fantasy gaming franchises of all time.

“The hardest part was trying to figure out which era we were going to be in, so Todd and Matt settled on the second era, a thousand years before everything else.

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“There wasn’t a lot of information about that period, the interregnum. There’s like a 400-year window where it was just chaos. And so we really started digging into what it could be and how.”

A rocky launch that changed the future of ESO for good

After years of development, the game finally launched in 2012. However, the initial reception was one of confusion. Many were struggling to connect out of the gate, something that Lambert admits was largely due to the team still figuring out what it was they wanted Elder Scrolls Online to be.

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“The launch game that we had was kind of this weird hybrid between MMO and Elder Scrolls and it didn’t really suit either of those. So we had to go back and refocus on what it was we wanted it to be. Is it an MMO first? Is it an Elder Scrolls game first?”

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The team quickly realized that, first and foremost, ensuring the foundations of ESO were still interwoven with the heart and soul of an Elder Scrolls experience was the way to go.

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“We decided on the latter, it was Elder Scrolls first and foremost. So everything we worked on from that point on was focused on ‘its Elder Scrolls.’ If you want to play it solo, you can.”

And while the team may have had a clear focus from then on, the game, like most online experiences, was always and still is a work in progress. The changes and updates to Elder Scrolls Online a testament to the proactive and fluid approach the team has had over the almost decade-long run of the game. 

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“It’s constantly work, right? There’s always something to fix. There’s always something to improve and then it takes a long time to build these stories. It takes about 18 months to build a zone. We’re already working on next year’s chapter and we just launched Necrom in June. We have actually been working on it for a while now.”

The future of Elder Scrolls Online: 10-year anniversary and beyond

As mentioned above, Elder Scrolls Online is nearing the 10-year mark in its lifespan. For Lambert and the rest of the devs, this milestone is an important moment. One that will be celebrated in a big way.

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“We might hear something in November. It’s a celebration of the game, it’s been live for 10 years. There’s a bunch of people on the team that have been working on it since the early days, you know, in 2007. 

“So we want this to be a celebration of the game, the community. It’s pretty rare in this day and age for a team to be working on a game as long as we have. There aren’t too many games that have hit the 10-year mark. Many games have just shut down and they didn’t even make it to the 10-year thing, so it’s pretty special.”

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When finally asked if Online will slow down after the 10-year mark or to make way for the next single-player experience, Lambert was quick to ensure that, so long as players want it to keep going, they will do everything they can to keep bringing new and fresh ideas to Elder Scrolls Online.

“We’re working on features for you know, fourth quarter next year. We’re working on stories for 2025 and 2026. We’re constantly feeding stuff into it, and as long as people want to continue playing ESO, we’re going to continue.”

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With a new patch on the way and the tease of more great content, Elder Scrolls Online still has plenty to offer its fans. For all the latest news and content about the iconic gaming franchise, be sure to check out all of Dexerto’s Elder Scrolls Online coverage here.