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Experimenting with ESO’s story after ten years of adding new chapters

Zenimax Online Studios has been working on the Elder Scrolls Online for years and is trying to keep its approach to storytelling fresh.

Experimenting with ESO’s story after ten years of adding new chapters: Mephala from ESO gestures towards you, lit in blue and red.

Keeping things fresh in a game like ESO must be an incredible challenge. Ten years after launch it’s still going strong, with new chapters regularly being released. The danger, however, is that things could get formulaic. We could simply go to a new area, fight a new danger, and come back to tell the tale. Thankfully, Zenimax Online Studios is aware of this trap and is taking steps to avoid it.

In the upcoming chapter for the Elder Scrolls Online, Gold Road, players will take part in a storyline that aims to be told over several years and through different expansions. Despite some previous chapters being linked in the long running MMORPG, the current Necrom expansion and Gold Road will form the basis of something larger. I got to speak to narrative director Bill Slavicsek and loremaster Michael Zenke to find out how they’re trying new things with the game’s story.

“We’ve been doing this for ten years,” Zenke laughs. “We want to do new stuff, right? For ourselves so we don’t get bored and so that folks playing the game don’t just see the same thing over and over again. There are different ways to tell stories and something we’re always going to look at is how we can approach a narrative as a discrete tale but still have it surprise and engage you in a different way.”

A scene from ESO with a windmill turning against a misty mountain in the distance.

Part of the reason Zenimax Online Studios has been able to take this more experimental approach is due to the introduction of a new Daedric Prince, Ithelia. “The specific type of story we wanted to tell with the new prince was too big for one year and we want to get the most out of that,” Slavicsek tells me. “So that’s why that goes over the two year span. We like to mix it up.”

The team is even looking at how stories are experienced within chapters in an attempt to keep things novel. “Even in Necrom we broke up the format of how we tell the main story a little,” Slavicsek says. “You can do the story in a different order if you want. So we’re experimenting, we’re having fun and seeing what works and what doesn’t.”

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If you’d like to experience this experimentation and dive into the next chapter of the game, ESO Gold Road will launch on Monday, June 3. Head over to the official website to learn more.

Should you want to head somewhere else, our guide to the best fantasy games will see you living your best life in a different world. Or if it’s exploration you crave, why not take a peek at our recommendations for best open-world games you can play.