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How The Elder Scrolls Online balances class choice with character progression

One of the biggest challenges facing any role-playing game developer is choosing a class and character progression system that will please its players.

The difficulty of this problem is exacerbated for anyone designing a massively multiplayer online world based on the beloved Elder Scrolls franchise.

The Elder Scrolls Online publisher Bethesda today offered up an explanatory blog post about the various design decisions the company has taken, that have an impact on the kind of character that players can choose and develop.

"Being both an Elder Scrolls game and an online RPG, we've faced some unique challenges," states the post. "In Elder Scrolls games, your character can do anything, and, after much adventure, almost everything. In multiplayer games, though, it can be important to stand out from the crowd. How would we preserve a distinct Elder Scrolls feel but give still everyone the opportunity to develop an identity?"

In Elder Scrolls Online, due to be launched early next year on Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, players choose a class at the beginning of the game. Their character can then progress its abilities by spending skill points on various skill lines of their own choosing. Many skill lines are available to everyone, to use as they see fit. Some skill lines are exclusive to certain classes.


"Your class is an important decision to make, but it doesn't chain you to any one play-style," adds the Bethesda post. "Every class has three of its own skill lines, each with different skills that are thematically related to the class. Combine those three with the many, many other lines available to every character, and each member of a particular class can be wildly different from the next."

Players who feel that they have pursued skill lines that do not work out as expected, will be able to rectify their mistake. And there are extra options for those who progress their characters to advanced stages, such as morphing.

"Many of the best ideas in game development come from late-night, coffee-fueled discussions, and one of the even deeper customizations in the skill line system came from just such a session, when one of our developers asked the revelatory question, 'What if our skills ... evolved?' This is where ability morphing came from, and it stuck as another choice you'll get to make. Once you've used a particular ability enough, you'll be asked to morph it, to choose between two paths, each of which add something new to that ability."