A question of trust: TESO dev answers to VG247′s readers

Friday, 29th June 2012 11:21 GMT By Dave Oshry

We have some very demanding readers, and some were “colourfully” vocal about The Elder Scrolls Online’s E3 reveal. PvP designer Brian Wheeler directly answered their concerns to Dave Oshry.

“Whether its the main quest of saving your soul from Molag Bal, or the distractionary quests that have you running around or the public dungeons, there’s just tons of great Elder Scrolls Lore in this world for you to find and fall in love with. Trust me.”

During E3 we published our first look at The Elder Scrolls Online. However, my positivity towards what I’d seen at the show was met with questions and concerns from readers. Some more colourful than others.

That same day I returned to the Bethesda booth with a newfound desire to dig deeper into the world of TESO – and a handful of questions straight from the mouths of VG247 readers.

I sat down with Brian Wheeler – the game’s lead PvP designer  - and proceeded to systematically chip away at his ego thanks to your kind words. However, Brian stood fast in he face of doubt, and I think his answers and insight may give you a better idea about just what sort of MMO The Elder Scrolls Online really is.

The first comment I read to Brian came from Kabby, who said: “Until they start showing videos of actual gameplay the public at large isn’t going to give a shit anyway. Hypetrain 101.”

To which Brian replied: “Well, a comment like that can come out from any game that hasn’t been shown to the public yet. I see where it’s coming from. But trust me when I say that we will deliver what I say we’re going to deliver. When you see 200 people on-screen in one battle, you’ll know.”

I then told him how Sini remarked: “An MMO, that you pay to experience boring combat, yawn-inducing dialog, a world slapped together with most generic fantasy settings out there, and years behind the borefest commonly known as WoW when it comes to little things that most people do in MMOs. Who the fuck pays these people?”

Brian paused for a moment. He seemed a bit shocked. Then he replied: “It’s not slapped together. The Elder Scrolls Online is something we’re all attached to. We all love The Elder Scrolls. We love the world and we love all types of Elder Scrolls games. We believe that it’s simply time for you to be able to play those games with friends. So the world is rich, and yes it is a “fantasy MMO”, but that’s what The Elder Scrolls is, a fantasy world. And we think it’s time we bring you in and let you play that with your friends. As for who pays us? ZeniMax Media Inc.”

Brian smiled, and then I told him how Stardog said that: “All they had to do was just take the gameplay from Oblivion/Skyrim and translate it into an MMO. Not difficult for a designer with more than two brain cells. Instead they’re making another generic boring MMO with ugly graphics. Star Wars made the exact same mistake. Without the name, you wouldn’t know this was TES. With the unlimited budget ZeniMax have, they should be doing 100x better than this shit. Just cancel it. If Bethesda had the choice, I bet they wouldn’t want it made, or would want to make it themselves. Now they’re slaves to a money-hungry ZeniMax.”

Brian sighed.

“You know, Bethesda is always going to make great games and we’re always going to make great MMO games. We have very high level MMO designers that have been doing this for a long time. So when it comes to making the best MMO out there, we have a lot of men and women who know what they’re doing. What they’re going to do is make the best possible MMO they can – not just a multiplayer version of Oblivion or Skyrim.”

TESO’s E3 teaser.

I’d actually asked Brian about that type of gameplay earlier, and he said that while you can play TESO in a first-person view and make it feel a bit more like Skyrim or Oblivion, you will likely want to zoom out for a better perspective for the majority of your gameplay. Swapping viewpoints helps if you want to live. As I remarked to him, “You can’t tell if you’re standing in fire if you can’t see your feet”

But I digress.

The last comment I read to Brian came from TheWulf, who howled: “There go my hopes for this game. I thought that they were still trying to tweak things to go more down the Guild Wars 2 approach of actually doing things so different from the standard MMORPG that you can’t really compare it to anything. But I guess they’ve just settled into the TOR/LOTRO/WoW style of game. That’s … tremendously disappointing. I guess I might have had suspicions that that was the case, but yeah. I mean, I kind of wanted it not to be. I was still hoping it wasn’t. Why? I really, really fucking like the lore of The Elder Scrolls. It’s a fantastic world. The only problem I’ve had with it is that since Morrowind, they’ve been telling some really boring stories in it. Pastoral lands have troubles with demons? Yawn. The frozen north has troubles with dragons and xenophobia? Yawn. They could do so much better. I was hoping that with this we might actually see some enjoyable gameplay and maybe, maybe some decent storytelling. But that’s what I get for having mildly high hopes.”

A solid question. To which Brian replied: “Well, we’ve picked a timeline where, if you look at the whole history of Tamriel, we’ve highlighted a time of epic civil war. That gave us a perfect setup for the PvP as well as making sure we had each alliance set up. You can have a story for the Aldmeri, you can have a story for Daggerfall, you can have a storyline for Ebonheart, along with the heroic story for your own character. There’s lots of opportunities for great stories out there for people to grow attached to and love.

“Every story has the opportunity to be exciting because people are going to get out there and find things to attach to. There are tons and tons of things out there for people to fall in love with – whether its the main quest of saving your soul from Molag Bal, or the distractionary quests that have you running around or the public dungeons, there’s just tons of great Elder Scrolls Lore in this world for you to find and fall in love with. Trust me.”

I had some questions of my own for Brian as well. Namely why TESO wasn’t “just another fantasy MMO.” What are some things that differentiate it from every other damned fantasy MMO out there?

“Well, coming from the PvP side of things I love the fact that we’ve got a three-sided war. It’s not just Red vs Blue. We’ve got a three-way war on an epic scale. Battles with up to 200 people on-screen at once in Cyrodiil. And it runs smoothly! It’s great for the lore and it makes for great PvP. There’s never a stalemate in a three-way war. Plus, now you’ve got the whole world of Tamriel. Also, everyone can block, crouch and sprint. Any class can use any weapon. You can even become the emperor. And there’s so much more I just can’t tell you about yet.”

Fair enough. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

For me it’s about the allure of the grand scale of the Elder Scrolls universe. As I told Brian, sure there’s mods that make Morrowind and Oblivion more modern and playable and I’ve put nearly 150 hours into Skyrim to date, but they are still separate games. Plus, we’ve never even been to the likes of Elsweyr or Valenwood in a modern setting.

So if you want the entire world of the Elder Scrolls contained in one game? As Brian says: “This is it.”

The Elder Scrolls Online has a 2013 release date.



  1. Doony

    Pretty sure Wheeler worked on Stranger’s Wrath. Good guy!

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Fin

    And this is why someone who works in the games industry should never be exposed to “questions from the readers”.

    “With the unlimited budget ZeniMax have, they should be doing 100x better than this shit. Just cancel it. If Bethesda had the choice, I bet they wouldn’t want it made, or would want to make it themselves. Now they’re slaves to a money-hungry ZeniMax.”

    Yeah, nice one, that’ll really make the guy feel positive and look forward to doing more Q&As like this. Good job.
    Like some of the ideas had merit, but do ye all have to be so fucking mean and cynical? Games aren’t made by algorithms, they’re made by people who’re given a task and are just trying to do the best they can.

    In summary: you’re all dicks.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Custard Ganet

    Looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.Wont be playing it myself as i just wont touch MMO’s but it will be interesting to follow its progress,big elder scrolls fan myself and really enjoying the Dawnguard DLC at the moment.I hope it turns out well and with every province included in the game i hope its very lore rich.Really interested to see what Black Marsh,Valenwood,Elsewyr and Summerset Isles look like,ohhh and Orsinium and it will be nice to see high rock again.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. SplatteredHouse

    I very much hope to see Elsweyr in the MMO. I really liked the way my character was reacted to early on, in SW Morrowind, and then you see a similar regard for the Khajiit (as to the Dunmer) around the Nords, in Skyrim. So, to see what it is like when the shoe is heavily on the other foot seems very interesting, stranger in a strange land, along with the impression that I have from the previous games, that Elsweyr is very different to the likes of Cyrodiil and Morrowind. The Summerset Isles also interest me.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Gadzooks!

    The whining subhuman scum that occupy this forum in no way represent gamer opinion, so putting their moanings to a developer is pointless.

    You may as well have just waved a full nappy at the poor guy. The effect would have been the same: To invoke revulsion at the stink a person is capable of producing.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. KAP

    See what perplexes me about this project is why isn’t the whole of tamriel mapped out?
    Or is that an enevitable DLC cash cow soon to be set on the world after release?

    Either way this looks like finally an MMO I’d check IF it were on PS3?

    #6 3 years ago
  7. OlderGamer

    Great piece Mr. Oshry. Love how you worked into it the readers here at vg247. And I fully disagree with Fin and Gad. Gamers here are no different then gamers anywhere else(from any other site, I mean).

    The Elder Scrolls games have been flawed for a long time, esp the console releases. They make a large open world, semi interesting story line(semi, nothing revolutionary), and then spoil it with some of the clunckiest and clumsiest actual gameplay in the genere. And then launch a hype machine that could sell Pong, Pitfall, or Space Invaders. The PR behind Tes is better then the game itself.

    TES is like going to a resturant and being served a great looking meal, only to start eating and find out the food is cold and tasteless. Harsh? Yes, prolly. Undesurved? No. It is a reflection more on the process, maybe even the industry itself, rather then the people crafting the game. Its a little like CoD, the game has crazy good sales numbers with Legions of fans that eat it up each and every year. But if you break down the CoD franchise on the merits of the games themself…it too is reflective of the industry. They aren’t making product the best it can be, they are sticking tight to the fomula and the plan. Tes does the samething. And Legions of fans buy both franchises, setting highly touted preorder records with each release.

    But in both cases there is also a virtual army of vocal gamers that detest the process. And the product. They aren’t good products, they are good enough products. They invoke a lot of sameness. I believe franchise focused biz models are one of the biggest reasons for year on year sales declines. They are putting out near identical versions of the same game/fomula time after time. Do that too close together and it hurts the brand. Cod is worse then Tes of course. But Tes doesn’t do anything to set one release apart from any other within its own franshise either.

    And now we have TESO. And of course the reactions from a lot of people are “great now we have TES, wow style. Fundamentaly sucsess is problem. If a brand new game came out(I know right, like that happens a lot) and was an overnite mega hit, then a lot of other publishers will want to cash in on that and make their own game that was just like it. How many times do we read the words(esp from EA) CoD-Killer? Or Sony forever chasing a Halo-killer. Sony copying Wii-motes(Move), SSMB(Sony All Stars), Mario Kart(Modnation and LBP Karting). Look at Minecraft, not only is the game on a MS system, but look at the seemingly countless rip off on XBLIndie. When someone sucedes others follow.

    Wow is the definitive MMOrpg. So gamers are going to expect TESO to be use the wow formula. Some gamers will be thrilled by that. Others turned away by it. Personialy I don’t think anyone is going to out wow blizzards game. I think they will fail if they try. I think it has to be expected that gamers will be cynical of any game entering the MMO space. How do you think G1GA would react to an anouncement that THQ or EA have a new game they are working on that will once and for all unseat CoD as the king of omp shooting? He would snicker and laugh.

    That is exactly what a lot of folks will do with TESO. Despite being a better game then Skyrim, that is what happened to KoA. No one bought it at launch. Teso has a lot to prove. And it is hard not to be cynical. I don’t need another MMO. I play Wow. And I will buy Guild Wars 2 when it comes out. I don’t need four or five MMOs. And if I did want a break and wanted to try a new MMO, there is a whole host of them that are free2play. The MMO space is just as crowded as the OMP FPS space. And I wish well anyone trying to claw their way into either genere, the games are already suffering from too much sameness.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Dave Oshry

    @1 Yes!
    @2 No
    @3 & @4 Indeed!
    @7 Thank you, sir!

    #8 3 years ago
  9. necromus

    I fell in love with Elder Scrolls way back in 1996 when I discovered Daggerfall. Sure it was buggy, but I loved the vast world with realistic gameplay. I also played Morrowind, and Skyrim (which is now my favourite). I started playing WoW in Vanilla (which back then was really buggy too) and while I always liked how your were in a vast world with so many other real people playing there too,I always thought the questing system paled in comparison with the Elder Scrolls games and I was wishing for the next Elder Scrolls game to be multiplayer since before Oblivion and Skyrim had come out. Now it looks like I’ll have my wish with ESO. If they are successful keeping the questing and game play very similar to the Elder Scrolls series then it will be a great game. Will it fail to live up to this? — Maybe, maybe not. But people need to wait until we see game play footage and there are beta events, etc. before judging it. I see so much negative feedback on forums about ESO, but it is so premature since no one has adequate information to judge it yet, I feel sorry for the poor developers of this game getting such negative feedback all the time. I am personally looking forward to playing this game.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. OlderGamer

    Some games, inspite of the sales numbers, some very vocal gamers and media love to hate.

    Games like CoD, Mario, Elder Scrolls, Ass Cred, Halo, RE, EA Sports, and more.

    It really doesn’t always have much to do with the games quality. Just that said games tend to do well, are loathed by some people.

    The problem with TESO really is that TES games are not very good. Not that they can’t be fun to play, but that they are not done very well. You can’t start a conversation out about a game with the words, “I know its bugy but…” Every TES game I have ever played has been a bugy mess. You can’t compare a MMO like wow with a single player ES game. But you can compare, and project, what a MMO ES game would be like to other games in the established MMO space.

    Sure a lot more info needs to be known about TESO. But gamers that have worries about it based on the quality of past ES games, I feel are very justified. The MMO space is crowded and competition is fierce. A half assed bug fest ES game will fail in that space. It simply can not and will not be able to stand toe to toe with Wow, Guild Wars 2, or Rift(one of the smoothest most polished MMOs ever made).

    ES games work on console because they fill a voided space. They have established brand name recongition. They are big budget. And they are marketed like crazy. they sell more in preorder then most games sell total. I am sorry but preorder sales do not speak of a games quality, but of its marketing. Time will tell what happens to TESO. I am sure core ES fans will eat it up, but I am also sure seasoned MMO vets(like me, I was in Alpha and Beta for Meridian 59 – look it up) will not embrace TESO unless it is amazing quality. And we just haven’t seen that level of quality in a ES game yet. I will keep right on playing WoW, Rift, and Guild Wars2. Much the same way i am stillplaying Wow even though Star wars has launched. Sometimes a gamer needs to see past the hype and get a good look at what is really at hand.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. TheWulf

    “When you see 200 people on-screen in one battle, you’ll know.”

    Except I’ve already seen that, myself, in the Guild Wars 2 BWE. It was absolutely insane and utterly glorious. I’ve never seen so many particle effects going on, it was just wild. And everyone was contributing to the fight we found ourselves in in our own way. We can expect that to happen every time we go up against something like the Shatterer in Guild Wars 2. That’s a given.

    What ArenaNet has done has consistently and honestly put their money with their mouth is (so to speak) and shown us the goods. They’ve let us interact with their game, try it out, and see that what they’ve told us is indeed true. If you believe in what you’re telling people, then you have no reason to hide your game from them.

    Because of this, ArenaNet has continued to tweak things based upon feedback. I mean, after the last weekend, they’re looking at stuff like ranged-melee balance, and there not being enough XP given for renown events. They’re listening and fixing their game to make it even better for their customers because they’re not afraid of us.

    ArenaNet isn’t treating us like a foul, ruinous virus.

    If you’re so proud of your game, show it to us already. Unless you actually do that, a billion words isn’t going to make even a bit of difference. You need people to SEE it, to be able to try it, to know for themselves whether you’re telling the truth or not.

    Sorry, ZeniMax, but everything thus far (including this interview) seems like craven cowardice.

    I’m honestly going to let this come down to: Put up or shut up.

    Is that so amazingly hard?

    #11 3 years ago
  12. TheWulf

    I think what’s irritating me the most about this is that thanks to various writers, there’s some great lore in the Elder Scrolls. The books you find are fun to read, and learning about the world and its history is actually a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The people who built that world clearly knew what they were doing, and it was a labour of love for them.

    But then the games… those games. Gods damn, the games suck. We all know this. Even the stories suck, the NPCs are one-dimensional… and I mean, look at the last game. It was just testosterone-pumped barbarians wanting to prove their manliness by killing things. Where was the depth? This is why I hold Obsidian up as my gold standard, still. At least they know how to give me depth.

    But yeah, The Elder Scrolls games do stink. And it’s a damned shame. An MMORPG set in that incredible world could be glorious, magnificent, wonderful even… but it’s probably not going to be.

    And that’s infuriating.

    They’re raping the shit out of something that has the potential to be good.

    Just show me the damn game Bethesda, so that I can either be delighted, or so that I can have my fears confirmed and so that I can stop hoping. If your lore writers weren’t so bloody good at their jobs, I’d have zero interest in your games anyway.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. TheWulf

    Oh, before I wrap up.

    2 & 5: With the blanket statements you made there, and the assumptions that came with them, I can honestly say that you’re projecting. You’re as much of a dick as anyone else. Pot kettle black, which is funny really.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. tesozone

    It is great to see some positive attitude from the dev of TESO. I believe that when we see some gameplay video we will all be shocked and amazed. I just can’t wait until that day so i can see some positive titles for article posts. I have been reading a lot of information at The Elder Scrolls Online Zone and I am convinced it will be great.

    #14 3 years ago

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