Since I'm one of the biggest fans of The Elder Scrolls Online, when I was given the opportunity to sit down and interview Rich Lambert, the Creative Director for ZeniMax Online Studios (the developers behind ESO), there might have been (there definitely was) an extended happy dance involved.
The Elder Scrolls Online started a year-long content schedule earlier this year called The Dark Heart of Skyrim which began with the DLC GreyMoor - a dark look into a slice of TES:V Skyrim lore. With some of the new content already out and fans happily submerging themselves in the darkness, we had a chat about the studio’s plans for ESO, spiders and tattoos (ironically the last two being in my least favourite and most favorite lists of conversational topics… in that order).
Rich joined the chat with his beloved puppers behind him, ready to steal the show (I use the term puppers loosely here as they resemble small horses and quite frankly are probably taller than me if they stand on their hind legs).
Mr. Rich Lambert. It’s an honour to be speaking to you. First off, can you tell us how you got into ESO? What was the path to helping to make this amazing game?
Rich: Wow. So that was... 13 years ago - 2007. I was actually a producer on Oblivion, so I worked at Bethesda Game Studios before and I used to bug Todd Howard all the time about how this would make a great online game - ‘We should really do this, we should really do this.’ And he humoured me, but he was like, ‘Yeah, no, we’re focused on these other games.’ One day he called me into his office and Matt Firor was there and Todd was like, ‘Matt, this is Rich, Rich this is Matt. Matt is going to lead up the effort for doing an MMO. Matt please take Rich - all he does is talk about making MMOs, that’s all he wants to do so please get him away from me.’ And yeah, we’ve been working together ever since.
In terms of the new DLC Greymoor, can you walk us through how the team came up with the darker storyline?
Rich: One of the things we always do when coming up with the next chapter or the next story is we kind of look back on what we’ve done. We had just finished coming off of Elsweyr and kind of the Season of the Dragon, and that story. Well it isn’t happy because dragons are ravaging the countryside and whatnot. It’s a little bit more lighthearted, the culture that we focused on with the Khajit. They are a little bit more kind of happy-go-lucky, you know? It’s a little bit of a different feel. So we wanted to do something that was very, very different. That’s why we focused more on the dark, serious side of things, rather than kind of what we’ve done in the past. On top of that, we knew that we wanted to go to Skyrim and we wanted to find a way to give players a little bit of that nostalgia, but also show them some things that they necessarily might not have seen in Skyrim before. So the Overland, you know, where you get to go and you get to explore Solitude and see your traditional Skyrim, and then when you go down into Blackreach, that is where we really do our own thing and you’ve never seen these places before in Skyrim, which is fun for the developers.
Being fans of it, and working with Bethesda before on Oblivion, it’s probably something that you had a lot of fun diving into?
Rich: Yeah, it’s always fun going and kind of reimagining things and also adding to the world. The Elder Scrolls has been around for 25 years now, and we get to add to it, which is awesome.
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