Today’s ESO Live was brought to us from the homes of Gina Bruno (Community Manager) and Jessica Folsom (Senior Community Manager). During the show, they were taking donations for Save the Children so there were lots of pauses where the names of prominent donors were mentioned.
JESS: We’re going to sink our teeth into vampires now, Gina.
First we had Combat Designer Kyle Nowak and Lead Gameplay Designer Rob Garrett talking about vampires. It was Kyle’s first time on ESO Live so they asked him about his career to date. He has been on the Combat and AvA Team for 4-5 years by now. He has made abilities and sets, nerfed your favourite class etc. Last year he focused on new feature development for combat, e.g. the Psijic Order skill line, the Necromancer class, and Vampires. Rob has been on ESO Live recently so they didn’t go into too much detail about him.
Vampire has been in the game since launch – why now to update it?
ROB: When we decided that 2020 would be the Dark Heart of Skyrim, we realised that vampires would be a big part of the story, so it seemed a natural time to do so. We updated Werewolf a few patches ago with the Wolfhunter update. It had been a long time since the team had worked on Vampire. It’s easy to get caught up in the skill line, but we wanted to work on the entire Vampire experience in the game – having the world react to you, the Justice stuff, updating the visuals, everything to make it feel like you’re a vampire.
You mentioned how Werewolves got their re-vamp back in the Wolfhunter update, but there are updates going into Werewolf in Update 26.
ROB: There are also balance changes going in for werewolves, and they have also been integrated into the Justice System. Just like with Necromancer, if you do something which makes it very obvious that you’re a Vampire or Werewolf in town, the townsfolk won’t be happy with that.
One of the things you guys changed was the tutorial, making that better for new Vampires.
KYLE: We haven’t changed the way you get infected, it’s still getting scratched by bloodfiends or being bitten by other players – we really love that “bite me” community we have going on. That’s still alive and well. We definitely saw the quests needed a few updates visually, teaching you a bit better. I especially like the later parts of the quests where you’re getting introduced to your new Vampire powers. It’s giving you a good starting point so you know what the main Vampire combat themes are. The guy who teleports you into the crypt is a bit more available. We knew a lot of new players would potentially want to try out this new experience.
One of the other really cool new things you guys added was the vampire hunters.
KYLE: We really want the world to react to you being a Vampire, one of the hallmarks of the Elder Scrolls is that immersion. We wanted to add vampire hunters who can stumble into you in combat and recognise you as a Vampire and want to put you down.
What about achievements? We’ve actually had some players who have gotten all the achievements in the game.
KYLE: Now they’ll have to go back and get the new ones. We’ve added a bunch based on feeding, because we made feeding so cool based on the new paired animation system, Blade of Woe style. There’s even an achievement to feed on another vampire, which is a bit weird. Also for werewolves, they don’t feed, they eat corpses, but it’s the same deal, go and eat a lot of unique NPCs to get new Werewolf achievements as well.
When you were creating the new animations, what were some of the goals that you set out? Obviously more visceral.
KYLE: The animators did a great job to sell that feeling of being a Vampire. We wanted you to feed more often which is why we changed the whole stage system, so that feeding increased it, because it’s really the most iconic activities, to go up and chomp on someone’s neck, and we wanted to make sure it was really satisfying. The animators came up and said “hey, we’ve been wanting to do this paired animation system for feed forever” and I said “that sounds perfect”. Just let them go crazy with it and they did such a great job, also the Vfx artists putting in all the extra little bits like the blood spurting out of the neck and all that edgy stuff, skirting the ESRB ratings a bit, but it’s no more gory than Blade of Woe. It really helps sell that feeling of you going around stalking victims and feeding on them.
[Gina plays a vampire and bites some NPCs, then becomes a fugitive from the law.]
ROB: Don’t forget that when you sprint continuously, you’ll turn invisible after a few seconds. It’s pretty cool too because I know that first trailer that we released when we announced Greymoor, the team as we were working on it were thinking to ourselves that we really want it to feel like that as much as possible. So that sprint and going invisible was like the vampire which is just blurring by in the trailer and taking out all those enemies.
KYLE: Yup, it was exactly like the trailer when they’re zipping by taking out all the soldiers around Lyris and the Nord Hero. You can just do that in game, a form of that.
[I don’t know if you guys want to show off what happens when you bite another player?]At the vampire shrine, ready to bite.
KYLE: That would be cool, because yeah, we did a whole bunch of feed animations for chomping on monsters, but it made sense with the whole “bite me” and that community, and people biting each other, we wanted to make that look way more awesome as well. So we added a couple of new paired animations for biting another player.
ROB: So it makes it feel almost like a ceremony, a rite of passage thing now.
The devs explain that you don’t need Greymoor to become a Vampire, it’s all base game content. The three ritual sites are in the base game: Bangkorai, Reaper’s March, and The Rift with their positions unchanged.
Gina’s character bites another player and the devs debate how to change the animation played. Apparently there’s an “unsuspecting” animation, but if the characters are on relatively flat ground and more lined up, there’s a “willing” animation where the character being bitten gets down on their knees and they willingly accept it. Kyle says there are “a ton” of variations based on angles to give variety.
You can bite another player once you have the Blood Ritual passive, with a seven day cooldown. After biting your character has blood all over their mouth and chest.
KYLE: You’re Stage IV, so you can’t even recover Health any more, which is why your Health bar doesn’t move. You’re like the ultimate Vampire at this point. I know that’s pretty harsh, not being able to recover Health is pretty noticeable. A lot of people were like “why is my Health bar not going up, I just finished combat” but that’s the curse. You’ve got total control over your Health bar but any time you trip over a rock, you’re going to have to find a way to fill it back up. It can be a little inconvenient at times, but that’s the price you pay.
ROB: It reinforces the theme too that part of the curse of a Vampire is this continuous need to feed. We have the skill built in where you are effectively pulling blood from your enemies to feed yourself in combat.
Kyle, did you want to go over the changes to the abilities and how that ties into the combat themes?
Comparison of the old and new Vampire skills
KYLE: So one of our main goals was to make the skill line feel complete and up-to-date. It felt a little lacking only having two active skills. When we were making the new skill line we looked at some core themes to tie everything together. We did the same thing with Necro, with the Psijic Order.
One of the big themes is blood magic, you see that with abilities which use your own Health or are based around managing your Health. Another was being stealthy or elusive, because that’s all about Vampires sneaking up behind their victims and feeding, like passives that make you go invisible when you sprint. And then also that hit-and-run playstyle, striking from the shadows, which is what that particular passive is about, coming out of stealth and getting a huge bonus to your Weapon and Spell Damage. Those were our main three themes that we kept in mind.
We wanted the transition to be as smooth as possible for people who had played Vampire in the past, we tried to keep your skill line experience and morph progress as preserved as possible. Obviously you’re going to have to level those three new skills from scratch because they didn’t exist before, but where there was an existing skill we tried to preserve it.
ROB: That’s an important point, even though you won’t have levelled up the new skills, if you’ve already maxed out your Vampire line, you will be able to immediately unlock those skills. You don’t have to level up the whole line again, just the individual skills. Also we are going to be refunding all the skill points that people had spent in Vampire.
KYLE: Feed, that first passive, is automatically granted, so you get to save one skill point.
The arrows show where your individual ability progress will transfer to. Progress from Drain Essence will go to Eviscerate because they’re both the first skills in the line. Vampiric Drain is like a rebranding of Drain Essence, so we see this as a brand new skill.
We made some changes to Vampire on this week’s PTS and as far as I can tell, that’s what’s going to go live for Vampire, right?
KYLE: Yep. We’re still going to be monitoring it on people playing on Live. PTS vs Live is a very different environment in terms of scale and how much time you have to test. So it’s not like we’re done. I think there will be plenty of post-U26 changes to Vampire as we see people start using it, as it shapes into the current game’s meta. In the last PTS, the biggest thing we did was to adjust the stage penalties, the ability cost penalties and the vampire cost bonuses, so we iterated on those values and went with something a little more conservative, so it’s not quite as punishing to be a Vampire – but we still wanted that ability cost penalty to be omnipresent because it’s part of the curse. We’ll see how it performs in Cyrodiil.
ROB: The previous version of Vampire that’s currently on Live just seemed to be passively providing power with very minimal cost associated with it, not zero cost, you had Fire damage and such. That was one of the guiding principles of this update. Now choosing to be a Vampire is not a no-brainer, it’s both a lifestyle and a playstyle for combat. Not everyone will find it’s the right thing for their character and that’s okay. Some people won’t like the trade-offs. But we want to make sure that the trade-offs are sharp so that you are getting a significant amount of power: you will deal more damage while your health is low. When you become a Stage IV Vampire, it becomes really sharp in terms of the trade-offs.
Gina thanked Rob and Kyle and then the show switched over to Mike Finnigan, who apparently has very rural internet.
Mike Finnigan – Lead ENCOUNTER Designer. That’s a little different to how we’ve introduced you in the past.
FINN: Encounters encompasses not only Dungeons but also overland encounters and the Monster team. So I’ve taken over to do those two teams as well as dungeons. So we’ve put some other people in charge of those underneath me, so we have this new structure to how encounters are going.
So now people can say FU Finn in Dungeons AND in the Overland?
FINN: World Bosses, Public Dungeons, any of those things really.
Gina explained that they weren’t going to be running through the Trial because it isn’t even out yet.
We have a new 12-person Trial coming with Greymoor, Kyne’s Aegis. Let’s talk about it. So you don’t have to be max level to do Trials, right, because we have a Normal and a Veteran version?
FINN: It’s around Level 10 that we expect you to be, we do tests where we get 12 Level 10s in there and see how it feels. You can be any level to start doing the Normal versions of Trials. For the Veteran Trials we expect you to be at least Level 50, and for the newer Trials, at least CP 160, and that’s mainly because of the gear you get. For the Hard Modes, while you don’t have to be max rank, we don’t generally balance it to the low levels, so we encourage people to be really good at the game in order to do Hard Modes.
What’s the process of building a Trial and then balancing it for all these different levels?
FINN: We pick a median for our balance group and do a run through to see if they can still hit these things. So for Normal, we usually shooting for Level 30s, but we put a lot of restrictions on them. Blue gear, no sets, no special gear like Maelstrom weapons. So if you go in at Level 10 or 20 with set bonuses, you’re already a cut above where we put our QA group. And the same thing for Veteran, they don’t have to be max rank or in all gold gear. For Hard Modes, we up the requirements.
They talked a bit about performance and the article which is updated every month, and then told Finn to take it away – “This is the Finn show now”.The quest giver, Thane Ogmar
FINN: So the first screenshot that we’re going to show is Thane Ogvar who is the leader of Kyne’s Aegis which is primarily a mining and fishing village set a little north of Skyrim, of Solitude. It’s inherent in the name but this is a bulwark against invasions from the sea. The thing is, it’s been a while, so they’ve gotten really really complacent. You’ll see lots of longships, this is how they navigated to the island. You’ll see in the distance a storm which is part of what the giants are using in their invasion.
What is invading this island is a creature which I don’t think has been seen in Elder Scrolls before, they’re called sea giants, they have a darker skintone. They also have allies which are half-giants and it’s an army of vampires, so this is nothing that anyone has seen before, and nobody knows where they came from. So they’re a seafaring race and they invade this island to come to plunder and they’re coming here at the behest of someone called Lord Falgravn. Stormcaller and Bloodknight
Part of their fighting techniques is to use Stormcallers. These are half-giants who can harness the very power of nature. They will call down lightning strikes on the defenders of whatever they’re attacking to keep their heads down, so the Sea Giants and half-giants can move unfettered. In all three sections of the island, you’re going to find a Stormcaller.
You also see a Bloodknight in this picture, these were brought by the Vampires. Discovering what they do in the non-boss encounters might be important for what they do in the boss encounters. The guy with the crazy feet is the Bloodknight.Yandir the Butcher
The first boss is Yandir the Butcher. This is a Sea Giant who has a lot of pets, shamanistic by nature. This guy will summon totems and the whole schtick is that you have to manage where the totems drop and prioritise them. These things are huge, easily as big as Skyrim giants. The half-giants are about half as big as them. The Sea Giants invade and plunder and go back to sea.Captain Vrol
The second boss is the leader of the Sea Giants, Captain Vrol. We wanted to touch on the important parts of the Sea Giants, the fact that they’re seafaring. If you look at his axe it almost looks like a fish hook. Their armour is adorned with sea creatures and they have longships, which is a key point of this battle. There is actually a longship just off the coast here and you’re going to use ballistas to attack it, you’re going to transfer over to the longship in order to attack monsters there. We wanted to integrate the elements of the Sea Giants into these fights.
For stuff we learned from Sunspire, the three bosses and three Hard Modes were really well received from a pacing standpoint, each fight felt impactful and epic and not like a slog to get through, but we did hear that there was a loss of feeling of progression with the two bosses which could be done in any order. Carrying forward, there are three bosses and you do them in order. You start with Yandir, then you fight Captain Vrol, and then you make your way to Lord Falgravn at the end. The penultimate encounter
Another piece of feedback we heard was that the non-boss encounters were kinda impactful but also throwaway, and I know Rich talked about this in an earlier stream – we wanted this to feel really impactful, some of the non-boss encounters. This is the encounter just before the final boss – I usually joke around and say “ahh, it’s the hardest pull in the game” but this one probably is. In testing and on PTS, people have to strategise about how to do it. There’s half-giants, there’s vampires, there’s everybody’s fan favourites if you played Black Rose Prison – Infusers. They will make their allies harder to deal with. There’s also a Bloodknight and a Stormcaller. So there’s a lot of stuff to deal with, to figure out how to best tackle that. So we think that will create a stumbling block for those Perfect achievements – the No Death, Hard Mode, Speed Runs.Lord Falgravn, vampire lord
Speaking of Lord Falgravn, not to spoil too much, this is a vampire lord. Our designer Jay went a bit nuts with this. He has three separate phases and you have to learn what he does in every single phase. It takes a lot of group coordination. This screenshot actually spoils a little about how to deal with one of those. There’s a lot of distraction with destruction here, get the people from Skyrim to come in to defend Kyne’s Aegis while everything else that happens in Greymoor happens.
So Finn, let’s talk Trial rewards.
FINN: If you saw the skin on the Sea Giant and the half-giant, that’s the kind of cosmetic reward you get for Veteran. It’s pretty cool, bluish-grey with these white scarred tattoos on it. There’s the standard four item set rewards. There’s housing items that you get. And then for the best of the best achievement, there’s a new memento which mimicks Yandir’s totem. So you summon all four of those totems and three or four other people from your group can interact with them. You can show it off in town.
We talked about the trial having the different Hard Modes for the bosses, right?
FINN: We’re mimicking Sunspire with three bosses, each of which has a Hard Mode. You have to progress naturally, so you have to do the HM of the first one before you can do the HM of the second one, before you can do the HM of the third one. It gives people a sense of progression. It becomes this natural third difficulty that people can strive for.
So you’ll have to start watching streams once they go Live.
FINN: We already did on PTS. We’ll watch streams from as many people as possible once this goes live to see how people tackle it.
GINA: It’s fun! I haven’t done it yet but we’re talking about maybe trying to do it next stream. I love going in blind and trying to figure it out.
FINN: Yes! I think everybody loves it when you going in blind too.
JESS: Lots of panicking!
GINA: We’ll talk about doing a Trial run once it’s live.
JESS: I saw a dad joke that I have to read. This is from Creator. “I named my white Imperial horse Mayo because Mayo neighs.”
FINN: Ugh! That’s glorious.
GINA: I feel that this is the response that happens around the office too. Finn will tell his dad jokes, Jessica laughs, and everyone else groans.