The Elder Scrolls Online

Creating ESO: Trials

12-player Trials are coming with Craglorn. Find out what your group will face and learn how we created a new kind of adventure for ESO.

The gates of Hel Ra Citadel loom ahead of your band of 12 battle-hardened allies. Ancient Yokudan warriors, air atronachs, and even deadlier foes are prepared to repel your assault. All your careful planning, strategizing, and mastery of combat skills will be put to the test, and once the attack starts, you’ll have limited resurrections to use in an attempt to reach and defeat the Warrior. How will your group measure up in Trials?

One of the first things you’ll notice about Trials is that they bring a new experience to ESO designed to test even the toughest veterans. You’ll need a group of 12 to take them on, but they’re not just dungeons that require a large group—we’re applying additional pressure. Your team will only have a limited number of resurrections available, and additional rewards will be granted to those who defeat the weekly challenge with one of the top times across the megaserver.

Trials also feature the most complex and difficult encounters we’ve designed so far. They demand skill, adaptability, and coordination from every member of the group. We know you’ll be challenged by them, but we faced some hurdles to overcome while developing them, too. As we were creating the enemies and bosses you’ll face and attempting to test them, it became clear that we’d need a stable, solid team of testers with high skill—much like a raiding guild—to properly assess and tune them.

We asked for volunteers from our Quality Assurance team with a passion for difficult group content, and we got an awesome response. The group of experienced players that came together not only had great enthusiasm, but they put in tons of extra hours to hammer on the Trials, mastering the encounters, and giving feedback on tuning and the overall experience in the formidable battles.

As testing continued, we nailed down the specific mechanics for Trials, like how many resurrections groups would have available (what we call the “soul reservoir”) and how many players would be required. For the latter, we settled on 12 after extensive testing. We didn’t want to get into a situation where we demanded too much from an organizational standpoint; the challenge should be in the encounters, not in managing everyone’s schedules and struggling to field enough players. This number also means that individual performance and impact is important, and it makes the encounters easier to read with all the effects and telegraphs to consider.

In Trials, all 12 players have to be flexible and agile. By the time you reach the Veteran Rank you’ll need to be ready, you’ll have access to a large number of abilities, and Trials expect you to be prepared to face a number of situations. You’ll need to know what skills to bring for each encounter and be able to adjust your strategy and loadout to react to boss abilities.

The flexibility of our skill system allows us to create plenty of interesting situations for Trial groups, and we can demand a high level of mechanical mastery. For instance, there may be encounters that require a heavy burn phase where everyone needs to contribute high damage in a short period of time. We can also force groups to deal with extreme incoming damage. In these situations, additional healing and damage reduction skills might be necessary for everyone.

The skill system also allows us to play with group fragmentation, both planned and spontaneous. There are times when you’ll need to coordinate to split up and accomplish two or more objectives at once, but there are other times when your group can be shattered unexpectedly. In those situations, every player on your team will need to be ready to react and forge ahead in the Trial. And, of course, everyone will be expected to avoid telegraphed damage, control enemies, and know their role thoroughly.

Though you’ll face powerful bosses in Trials, they aren’t the only serious threat. We created a special type of adversary called “bannermen” that your group will need to deal with. Bannermen are easy to spot on the battlefield, and each needs to be handled correctly if your team wants to survive. One of our bannermen, for instance, has a nasty power that turns your group’s area of effect heals against you, making them cause damage for the duration. On top of devastating abilities like this, you’ll often face more than one bannerman, and your group needs to recognize the greatest threats and handle them quickly.

That sounds like a lot to manage, right? Well, it is, but we have a new feature coming with the update that will give your team more combat information to help while you learn: death recap. Once Craglorn is released, any time you’re defeated (even outside of Trials) you’ll receive a recap screen detailing the last several sources of damage you took. You’ll also see a variety of tips tailored to help you understand your recent death more clearly. We want to provide this information to help everyone learn more about combat, but we think it will be especially useful to groups facing the Trials. You can see a screenshot of the death recap below.

OK, so Trials are tough. Really tough. But what do you get for putting in all the effort to overcome them? First off, we put a great deal of work into making Trials visually spectacular. You’ll visit some of the most stunning places in (and outside of) Tamriel through them, and the boss encounters are the most intense spectacles you’ll see in the game. You’ll see the culmination of Craglorn’s story as you face the Celestial Mage and Warrior. And, of course, there’s plenty of remarkable loot to be had.

Something worth mentioning is that Trials don’t have a lockout. Your group can go in and take on Trials as often as you’d like, and you’ll still receive items throughout, even if you don’t defeat all four bosses. You can earn the very best loot—special set pieces that only drop from the final bosses—once a week, and those with the top 100 completion times during the week can earn another piece of loot from the weekly Trial (selected at random from available Trials). It’s important to note that you won’t be required to finish the Trial within a time limit; you may run out of resurrections and have to start over, but your completion time only matters with regards to the leaderboard and bonus loot (the same kinds of loot you can receive once weekly for defeating the whole Trial).

Trials aren’t meant to be 8-hour crawls. While the entire Adventure Zone will bring many hours of exploration, quests, and dungeon-delving, you’ll eventually be able to complete a single Trial in about an hour to an hour-and-a-half with an experienced group. You’ll always be striving for faster completions to earn more loot, too. We want every attempt to be intense and (hopefully) exciting even as your group improves and masters the challenges.


As you can see, we’ve put serious effort into making Trials a unique experience that adds something new to the kinds of adventures you can choose to experience in ESO. We’re looking forward to seeing you take them on! Thanks for reading, and come back for a new Creating ESO soon!


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