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

Friday, 29 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.