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How after ten years ESO is still a “deliciously weird stew”

If you’ve only casually passed by an Elder Scrolls game you might assume they’re pretty generic. Swords, elves, goblins, orcs, dragons, all stuff the fantasy world has seen a million times before. It takes a while to get to know that the Elder Scrolls series is weird. Seriously weird. I was able to ask narrative director Bill Slavicsek and loremaster Michael Zenke how ESO keeps that weird flag flying.

In the Elder Scrolls series there are obvious weird high points like the third game, Morrowind, which wears weirdness on its sleeve. None of the other RPGs are free from the bizarre and the Elder Scrolls Online, with its sheer breadth, is often weirder than all of them put together. In the ten years since its launch, we’ve been to uncharted daedric planes, travelled to one of the moons, met a time traveller from the far future, and run around with a magic cat. There’s so much more to plumb in terms of oddness, with ESO never afraid to jump into strange settings.

“Our goal is to continue to be the Elder Scrolls. Right? Weirdness is part and parcel of the chemistry of the setting,” Bill Slavicsek tells me. “We love to add our own, we throw our own ingredients into the mix of this deliciously weird stew that’s been cooking for ten years.”

Key to keeping ESO beautifully bizarre is taking real life inspirations and themes and putting a spin on them. “That’s something that we’ve really taken to heart and we do a lot of work with it,” Micahel Zenke explains. “Ithelia, our new Daedric Prince for Gold Road draws heavily on the the bare bones Bethesda used when they created the original pantheon. We took a look at real world religions and faiths and tried to bring something new and fresh to the table. It became a really fun jumping off point, considering what does she look like? What is she the Prince of?”

In addition to characters and themes, quest structures contain twists and often contain an aspect of the unexpected. “We do look for ways to surprise you but we want those twists to be meaningful,” Slavicsek says. “We’re in charge of the narrative but we let it go where it goes, because that’s good writing. I’d say 50% of the time what we envisioned is what we get at the end and the other 50% we surprise ourselves, and that’s just fun.”

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ESO is currently celebrating its ten year anniversary and the next chapter, Gold Road, will be releasing on Monday, June 3. You can check out more information about it on the main ESO website.

If you’d like to see more from the genre, our guide to the best MMORPGs you can play will see you raiding in no time. You can also poke away at our best games-pc” rel=”noopener”>fantasy games guide, for more sword and sorcery fun.

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