Based on the numerous tips and tweets Massively and staff received, I suspect the test today is not some everyday, run-of-the-mill testing session. If you happen to have an invitation to this latest test, then you should notice in bold type the words "stress test." This typically means that the developers need your help in trying to stretch server hardware and software to its limits. You will be given instructions by the developers to perform specific tasks that might not fit your typical gameplay style. But do them anyway. Why? If you don't follow those instructions, then it could mean that the test's results are faulty or inaccurate. I recall one recent stress test that I participated in where players were asked to run as far as they could and as fast as they could. I have no idea what that was specifically testing, but I'm sure it helped out someone somewhere.
Stress tests also mean that you're likely to run into conditions that are not typical for normal gameplay. During normal live gameplay, a zone's population will be limited somehow. Traditionally, this is done by having multiple servers; however, we know that ESO plans to have megaservers based on geographical region and gaming platform. Likely, ESO will be divided into phases when the game goes live. But since this is a stress test, it's highly likely that the developers will attempt to push that limit, if they enact a limit at all. This means you will see lag! Lag on the server means your character might rubberband or warp forward or backward. Lag on your system means slow responsiveness on your controls and slow frame rate. Do not take this as the norm for gameplay, and do not let it taint your impression of how the game will perform when it's live.
Most of all remember that the game is still in beta. The developers are still fine-tuning the game. Animations and voiceover are usually elements saved for some of the final rounds of production. Do not be surprised if the voiceovers for NPCs change mid-conversation or do not match the gender of the character. During the DC Universe Online beta, one of the early questgivers was clearly a female and was referred to as a woman by one of the other NPCs, but the temporary male voice remained in the game until just before launch. If you see things like that or if the animations seem to be a bit off, go ahead and report it as a bug -- but understand that it's likely just not added in yet.
Oblivion is the realm of the Daedra. If I were to put those terms into relatable English terms, I would say that Oblivion is similar to hell and the Daedra are demons. As is typical of mythological demons, Daedra come in many shapes and sizes. And of course, like most mythological evil creatures, the Daedra are ruled by an all-powerful creature (or creatures, in the case of the Elder Scrolls lore). In ESO, we are talking about the Daedric Princes.
As previously discussed, the player begins his or her journey in ESO as a prisoner of the Daedric Prince Molag Bal in the area of Oblivion called Coldharbour. (British spelling because Tamriel is obviously off the coast of Great Britain. Ahem.) Molag Bal has been called the Prince of Rape; in Skyrim, he calls himself the Lord of Domination. And although it's not typical for Daedric Princes to be nice to the inhabitants of Tamriel, Molag Bal is exceptionally un-nice. His sole purpose appears to be to subjugate and torment the races of Tamriel. Coldharbour reflects this. The Book of Oblivion, as seen in the games Oblivion and Skyrim, describes Coldharbour as a duplicate of Nirn, the mortal realm, including a replica of the Imperial palace and all the lands within. But in this version, the skies are burning, the air is freezing, and the ground is covered in sludge. Thankfully, there is no olfactory technology in games yet because corpses litter the earth and there are no showers.
If the test today takes place at the beginning of the game, then you will start in Coldharbour. I know you will not be able to talk about your experiences in the test thanks to the NDA, but let me know in the comments what you think about being able to finally experience what its like in Molag Bal's realm. Are you looking forward to it, or do you wish that the game would start someplace else? What other areas of Oblivion are you looking forward to seeing? Is Coldharbour the place where you'd start your ESO experience if you were designing the game? Have fun in the stress test, and I will see you next week.
Each 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. He promises to keep the arrow-to-the-knee jokes to a minimum.