The Elder Scrolls Online

Creating ESO: Veteran Dungeons

Get an inside look at how we put these challenging adventures together.

Veteran Dungeons in ESO are much more than just tuned-up, harder versions of the original dungeon. Our team takes the experience further, continuing the storylines and introducing entirely new boss encounters. If you haven't had a chance to play through a Veteran Dungeon yet, you're in for a great time—and soon you’ll have even more of them to try with the upcoming Veteran version of Crypt of Hearts! Let's take a closer look at how we create these tough group adventures.

In Veteran Dungeons, we want to bring your group a worthy challenge, take you to incredible new places in and outside of Tamriel, and expand the stories started by the normal versions of our dungeons. Some of the most complex fights in the game wait for you in them, and you'll have to coordinate, learn strategies, and probably die trying several times before you achieve success. When your group finally prevails, you'll get excellent rewards and see the story progress through events and NPCs you've met.

All of our dungeons have stories that unfold as you explore them, and it’s important to us to continue to develop them in the Veteran versions. Dungeons give us an opportunity to introduce you to new characters, re-introduce you to old ones, and to tell some of the story through scripted events—not only in-between fights, but as part of the bosses themselves. Plus, we get to draw on the incredible lore base of The Elder Scrolls, so we get to take you and your group to places like planes of Oblivion and explore other iconic elements of the setting.

We hope the new stories we’re bringing to the game are as fun for you to experience as they are for us to make, but we also know that they shouldn’t slow you down. Dungeons are repeatable, and after you’ve seen the story, you’re probably going back with your friends to try for specific pieces of gear or to get achievements. We always keep that in mind as we implement the stories, so we make much of the dialogue ambient and tell some of the tale through the encounters themselves. Even the dungeon tells part of the story: our amazing Environment Artists and World Designers make the very corridors, caves, and ruins a part of the narrative.

For many, the main attractions in Veteran Dungeons are the bosses. When we set out to put them together, we first look to the lore. We come up with bosses that make sense given the original dungeon's setting and story. Then, we choose creatures and other enemies that fit in with them and give us room to come up with interesting mechanics that make sense for the particular boss. We always maintain an awareness of the bosses in the original dungeon when we approach Veteran versions, and it’s fun to occasionally build on them in unexpected ways, tell more of their story, or give them a nod of the head. In Veteran Crypt of Hearts, for example, you’ll come upon two familiar Xivilai performing a dread ritual on a Bone Colossus. Even though you’ve seen the characters and construct before, the challenge you’ll face is entirely new and much more deadly.

At this point, there's quite a bit of design on paper, and artists and engineers get involved early with the designers to ensure, right from the start, they can build a unique and fun challenge that looks as good as it feels in combat. We want to have intricate, memorable encounters (especially in Veteran Dungeons), and bosses play a big part in achieving that goal. They tie into the story, too; there’s nothing like finally getting to put the sword to a villain that managed to escape your character early on in his or her career.

You can probably imagine how important testing is when it comes to Veteran Dungeons. Much like we do for Trials, we have groups of skilled, coordinated testers ready to take them on. The Dungeon Team wants to kill you, don’t get them wrong, but they don’t want bosses to be unfair or impossible. It's a difficult tuning and balancing act to get them just right, especially considering the broad range of character builds that will be attempting them. When the testers wipe several times learning the fight and let out a cheer when they finally manage to scrape by with a win, we know we're on the right track.

Watching people play through the dungeon is one of the most useful testing tools our designers have—they can see exactly what the player experience is like and whether that lines up with the intent. Constant communication between the involved teams and members of the dungeon team is imperative. In fact, the Dungeon Team likes to mention that the round table between their desks where they frequently sit to discuss and coordinate throughout the day is the most important team member.

Now that ESO is in the hands of players, there are more venues for feedback, and the Dungeon Team uses them all. They're constantly out there reading your comments, watching your streams, and finding out what you like and don't like. They’ve already made some adjustments to dungeons based on feedback, such as increasing Veteran XP and changing the way chests work, and are looking to make more in upcoming updates to make Veteran Dungeons the rewarding challenges that you expect. So don't be shy! Let us know what you think about Veteran Dungeons on our official forums, reddit, gaming forums, and social media. We're out there reading and watching!

We hope you enjoyed this little peek at our goals and methods for creating Veteran Dungeons. You'll get to experience Veteran Crypt of Hearts soon, and we can't wait to get it in your hands. Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for the next Creating ESO.



Discuss this on the official ESO forums.