Tamriel Infinium: The Elder Scrolls Online's community focus

Tamriel Infinium ESO community focus
When interviewing developers for Massively over the last three years, I've taken many opportunities to chat up multiple community managers. And when I was running my own community, I read article after article about how to gauge the health of a community. Although I don't remember who said it or where I might have read it, I learned that one of the best ways to measure a healthy community is the amount of artwork that players make about your particular theme, or in the case of The Elder Scrolls Online, the game.

Of course, all game creators like to see players having fun and being inspired by what they are doing. The Elder Scrolls brings with it an existing community inspired by games like Skyrim and Morrowind. The community has already fallen in love with ESO and has drawn inspiration from everything that ZeniMax has released about the game so far. One of these inspired individuals is Lisa Green, known as Aloucia on TESO-RP.com. She told me a bit about herself and the inspiration behind her painting that was featured in the latest Tamriel Chronicle.

Tamriel Infinium ESO community focus
Massively: Your artwork was featured in the latest Tamriel Chronicle -- congratulations!

Lisa Green: I'm super excited! I feel I accomplished something pretty substantial. It's exposure, and to a target audience, I suppose, more than what I'm able to get via my personal Facebook page or Tumblr.

The picture is of a Bosmer (Wood Elf) and her wolf's pelt, right? Tell me about the inspiration behind the picture.

Yep! It was inspired by the character I've already created in my head for ESO. She's a character that's been passed down from one game to another. But for ESO, I wanted to make someone who is confident and wild. So with all of that in mind, I came up with this version of Aloucia.

Is there a significance to the wolf pelt, or is that just something you thought would look good in the painting?

The pelt was a gift to the character. I want to say that they're sort of kindred spirits, but I'm not sure. Sure, it's an inanimate object now, but it's become sort of a part of her in that she never leaves it behind. She doesn't have too many friends, so having the pelt likely makes her feel she isn't entirely alone while traveling Tamriel.

Tamriel Infinium ESO community focus(See, this is why interviewing artists is fun; there is no "I thought it looked cool." There always seems to be a deeper reason behind the different parts of the work!) Obviously, you plan on playing ESO, but which other Elder Scrolls games have you played, and what has made you want to play ESO?

I regret to say that I didn't get fully hooked on the Elder Scrolls games until Oblivion. I played that game religiously, as well as Skyrim. I cannot wait to play ESO because I want to see what the team has done in terms of lore and immersion. Am I going to be sucked into the game as much as I was with Skyrim and Oblivion? I really, really hope so.

What about the lore sucks you in?

I love the little details about the various races that some people might not think too much about while playing the games. For example, I'm a fan of the Bosmer, and up until about three months back, I didn't know their religious beliefs called for them to be cannibals in most cases. And there are so many gods, goddesses, and Daedra with all of their own unique stories and qualities. I love it all!

Earlier, you mentioned exposure. Obviously, every artist wants his or her art to be looked at and enjoyed by other people. What type of exposure are you looking for in your work? Do you plan on this being a career for you?

Right now, the only exposure I have is my Facebook page, and that's a little hit and miss as interests go. Some people on there might like art from, say, Star Wars: The Old Republic. But because my interests change depending on the game I'm playing or about to play, I think maybe my art is missing its target and is being viewed by people who might not like the subject matter. People who are fans of sci-fi might not necessarily want to look at a bunch of funny-looking elves. So having my Bosmer Healer on the Tamriel Chronicle means it's being seen by the fanbase it was intended for.

I'd love to do this for a career, but I am going to need a ton more experience and training before that might be an option.

Tell me about your current training a little bit. What inspired you to become an artist, and what do you do to keep your skills in shape?

I don't have any real formal training -- almost no college experience in it, and maybe a class or two in high school. Most of it was teaching from my mom since she had an interest in art when she was younger. She told me about the sort of things she'd draw and make, and as cliche as it sounds, I wanted to do what she did. I tried to have other interests, but it always comes back to art. Recently, I've been doing rehashes of my old art to keep me focused and trained. I also take commissions and throw in new techniques I'm trying.

What tools did you use to make that piece, and if people want to see more of your work, where can they find it?

My Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet and Photoshop, and two places: DeviantArt and Facebook.

Cool. Thanks, Lisa, for taking the time to talk to us!

Tamriel Infinium ESO community focus
In last week's Tamriel Infinium, we discussed phasing and how it could be implemented in ESO. Although the only clues we have about how phasing (or layering, as the ESO devs call it) are from an AMA from April, we have had experience with phasing in other games, particularly World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online. Our commenters are torn about this technology. Players seem to either love it or hate it with very little in between.

Most who were opposed to phasing mirrored the opinion of commenter Trumanlee4. "I don't like how everyone is separated according to where they were in a quest line," he explained. "MMOs need to start bringing players together again, force people to group up, make content difficult again, and force socialization. I know there are some people who like being able to solo, but that's just not an MMO."

Other commenters believe that phasing can be a great storytelling tool. "Phasing is a pretty cool feature," Sorenthaz said. "I enjoyed how there were some enemy-infested areas that would later be cleared out and turned into base camps for the Argent Crusade [in World of Warcraft] once you did quests to clear them out and whatnot." However, he did see the possible pitfalls: "The only problem is sometimes that makes grouping difficult. But devs can always make tweaks to the system to change the phases you're in depending on various conditions."

Lastly, LookingGlass had a very balanced view, seeing both the pros and the cons and calling it a "double-edged sword," but the pros outweighed the cons. "Being out of phase typically doesn't last long, and the moments when phasing breaks your night of group play are rare. Saving a town or watching it burn is worth more than the occasional forced-to-solo scenario."

I really enjoyed reading last week's comments, so keep them coming! This week, my question melds both this week's and last week's discussion, and it's not really a question with a simple answer, but let's see how it goes: What tools can the game designers and community managers use to help bring the community together? Do you think the ESO team is doing a good job at it so far? If so, what is the best part? If not, what can it do to improve? Sit in your developer's armchair and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Tamriel Infinium Stepping into the world of The Elder Scrolls OnlineEach week, traverse the treacherous terrain of Tamriel with Larry Everett as he records his journey through The Elder Scrolls Online, an MMORPG from ZeniMax. Comments are welcome below, or send a message to larry@massively.com. He promises to keep the arrow-to-the-knee jokes to a minimum.

This article was originally published on Massively.