Elder Scrolls Online dev explains divergent quest paths

The Elder Scrolls Online plays very much like a single-player experience, but grouping with other players adds a new wrinkle to the story-driven mechanics. Namely, the game still presents world-altering choices, which means two players who are partnered can have wildly different realities. So how does the game deal with those instances? We talked to Paul Sage, the game's creative director.

While sometimes quests could align as each player simply sees his own version of the world, other choices will create differences too large to reconcile. The simple example in a preview build was whether to give an antidote to a dying woman, determining if she would live or die. We didn't see how that choice might iterate throughout the rest of the game, but it gave a glimpse of the life-or-death choices that could lead to very different outcomes. In the full game, chances are almost certain that group members will have made different choices at least a few times.

"In certain cases your quest might diverge slightly," Sage told Shacknews. "You know, in any game you can still go along with them and help them, and it's very much the same thing. The split might be in the same quest and you could still hang out with them and help them out."

That would mean each player could scratch the others' back and repeat a quest twice with slight differences, which has already led to some feedback from the beta. "We've watched as people group up, and we'll see somebody make a certain choice, and the other person is like, 'I wish I'd made that choice.' So we have to be really careful about the choices we allow you to make and make sure you still feel good about it at the end."

Meanwhile, Sage says the beta has provided the studio with a positive reaction, as compared to the somewhat skeptical one from some fans and onlookers. "We've noticed a muted reaction among some people, and we've gotten a lot of excitement from some other people," he said. "When we watch people play, though, we see the lights turn on and it clicks with them. Sometimes, no matter what you say or how well you say it, your message isn't as clear as you'd hoped it would be. The response we've gotten when people have played has been pretty great."