ESO’s Play-Test Server (PTS): what, how, why
Thanks to Earthtear Cavern, I have logged onto the Play-Test Server for the first time, and it’s been both frustrating and fun. Not everything was intuitively obvious, so I’m going to walk through what the PTS is, how you can access it, and why you might want to.
What is the Play-Test Server?
The PTS is a completely separate server used to test new content before implementation on the live servers. Always abbreviated PTS, but the terms Public Test Server and Persistent Test Server are also used. Anyone with an ESO account can access the PTS, for free. The PTS server is reset with every major patch, and when that happens changes you have made in that world (houses decorated, etc.) will also be reset. It’s for testing; it doesn’t stick. Otherwise, it’s the same Tamriel.
How do I get there?
Open the Launcher and click the Options icon in the upper right corner. (Looks like an open circle.) Scroll down until you see “Show Public Test Environment”. Click that button, click Apply, then return to the main launcher screen.
On the main launcher window, on the left-hand side, you will now have two options where before there was only one. The first option is “The Elder Scrolls Online”; below that will be the new, second option, “The Elder Scrolls Online (PTS)”. Click that second one to select it.
The launcher will then show an INSTALL button instead of PLAY – you’ll need to download the PTS, because it’s a separate game. The download will take hours (and 60GB of hard drive space), so don’t plan on playing immediately.
ESO has two PC/Mac servers – the North American (NA) server and the European (EU) server. Those two live servers share the PTS. So when you log in you’ll have one of two possible character options, depending on which live server has PTS control.
1) If you play on the NA server and it has the PTS, when you log in you will be able to copy over all your existing characters. Nothing you do on the PTS affects the live game, so any progress won’t transfer back, but you’ll have your stuff.
2) If you play on NA and the EU server is up – as it currently is with the Dragon Bones patch – when you log into the PTS you won’t have access to your characters and will need to build new ones.
However, even if your usual server is not on the PTS, you do not need to start from scratch with a baby toon. On the character-generation screen, in the upper top-left corner, a drop-down menu will offer the choice of building a brand new character or building a “template” character. If you choose to build a template character, that character will be lvl 50 upon log-in, with hundreds of unspent skill points ready to be allocated.
I was resistant to the PTS because it felt like a waste of time – nothing sticks, none of the progress transfers… why y’all do this? I thought it was to preview new content, and to give ZOS feedback on changes, and those reasons are valid, but I’m finding a lot of others.
When you build a lvl 50 template character and log in for the first time, that character will have a ton of containers in their inventory filled with goodies. Here’s a partial list:
Housing: deeds to almost all* houses, almost every* furnishing pattern, backpacks full of furnishing mats, a backpack full of stacks of crafting stations (200 each, both regular and attunable), a backpack full of stacks of training dummies (200 each, an army of skellies).
(*See exceptions below in the “Downsides” section.)
Crafting: all motifs, stacks of crafting mats and masterwrits, all provisioning recipes, unlimited transmutation crystals.
Gear sets: all trial gear sets, all dungeon sets, all overland sets, all Tel Var sets, all special sets (Maelstrom Arena Master weapons, the Willpower, Agility, and Endurance sets, the Asylum Sanctorum Perfect & Imperfect weapons), and all Monster sets in light, medium, and heavy versions. Boom.
And more: you start out with 100,000 gold, and you get 5500 Crowns each day. The Crowns don’t accumulate, but most things in the PTS Crown store are 1 Crown except the furnishings, and those are discounted.
Every character you build can be a template character, and you can buy additional character slots for 1 Crown each, so you can build more template characters and bank their mats and gold if you run out.
I logged in specifically for housing. On the NA server, ZellFire had a furnishing pattern worth 50K, but I hadn’t posted it for sale b/c I thought I’d need it to solve a problem in Earthtear. On the PTS I made one to test, and it didn’t work by a mile. I sold the pattern this week, so the PTS has already saved me 50K.
Similar situation with the Crown store. I’ve been spending my 5500 daily Crowns buying everything that might possibly work for this or that purpose. Some items aren’t as cool as I hoped; a lot of stuff I would never have spent real Crowns to buy turned out to be useful. I’m absolute crap at judging scale and distance in the game, so having the actual pieces to put down in the environment and move around has been a godsend.
You get similar benefits with crafting. It’s less of a big deal now that we have a preview function in the Collections, but since your template character has all the motifs and style mats, you can make gear to try before you spend time farming the patterns or use valuable/rare mats to make them.
And the gear. Wow. I always assumed people on the PTS went out and farmed the new gear sets in the new dungeons. I was amazed anyone would spend time to farm tough sets twice, and also amazed they could post reviews/analysis of the sets within a couple of days of a PTS update… but that’s possible because you don’t farm the sets. Ever spent months farming only to discover the gear doesn’t work like you thought? The PTS could have saved you that time and frustration. Testing sets and builds is a big reason a lot of people use the PTS, maybe the primary one, and it works really, really well for that.
Downsides / Frustrations
*The statements marked with asterisks above are qualified below.
- Template characters won’t have your inventory (or anything else) from the live game. In my case, none of the luxury furnishings I’ve purchased and stored over the last year are available.
- Template characters have no achievements, so I can’t buy achievement furnishings to test, either.
- The template character also won’t have access to any achievement-based dyes, which is almost all of them. Silly, but this bothers me. I can buy costumes for 1 Crown each, but I can’t go wild dyeing them, or compare new dyes to those I have.
- You can port to your homes but will otherwise have only 1 or 2 wayshrines per zone.
- You won’t have access to any of the limited-availability homes: Linchal Estate, the Observatory Prior, etc. You also do not get the deed to the Vivec City apartment.
- You can’t get homes pre-furnished. You can buy furnishings packs in the Crown store, but those packs are themed – mostly Craglorn/Redguard. If you were decorating an Orc-style house, you would have to make or Crown-store buy each piece.
- The tooltip on a book in your crafting freebies says reading it will teach you “every furnishing pattern in the game since Homestead”, but that simply isn’t true – the new Daedric & Ayleid patterns are not there, and I need a lot of items from both of those. Some of those pieces are in the Crown store, but some aren’t, and those patterns are mega-pricey on the live server – I wanted to test them before buying.
- The PTS Crown store doesn’t have the same selection. Generally, that means new, unreleased items are available, but I have gone looking for things currently available on the live server and found they weren’t stocked, esp. mounts and pets. (No Skeevaton mouse; no undead baby dragon.)
- The Collections items you’re given / not given are somewhat odd to me. No achievements, but you get the achievement-based skins, such Amber Plasm. You don’t get the achievement-based dyes, but you do get the achievement costumes. Weird.
- And there’s the PTS reset cycle – if you start a major project right before a patch hits, you’ll lose it before you’re done.
And In Conclusion…
My experience is (obviously) limited – I’m sure I missed other pros & cons. But hopefully this gives you an idea of what’s possible. Some things the PTS doesn’t do well, but when it’s awesome, it’s awesome. And when it isn’t… well, you’ve spent no money, and your real characters aren’t affected, so no harm, no foul. It isn’t even a huge time sink, given the help you get.
From now on, even after I finish Earthtear, I’ll go to the PTS to make expensive furnishing patterns, if I can, before I decide if Fire’s going to learn or sell them – there’s just no substitute for seeing the thing made. And even with the preview function in Collectibles I’ll probably make new armor on the PTS first, particularly when the NA server is up and I have my dyes and can try the gear on with the character who will be wearing it.