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The Elder Scrolls was always an MMO franchise

Wednesday, 12th June 2013 09:19 GMT By Phil Owen

The Elder Scrolls is the poster boy franchise for single-player RPGs, and the thought of it going MMO doesn’t fit for some. Phil Owen goes hands on and finds there’s little to fear.

The Elder Scrolls Online

Developed by Zenimax Online, a new Bethesda studio founded specifically for the MMORPG.

Expected in 2014 on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – one of the more surprising announcements from E3 2013.

Is set during a time when Tamriel lacks an Emperor; each player has a chance to sieze the throne.

The various nations and provinces of Tamriel have been divided into three factions – the Aldmeri Dominion (Altmer, Bosmer and Khajiit); the Daggerfall Covenant (Bretons, Redguards and Orcs); and the Ebonheart Pact (Dunmer, Nords and Argonians).

Today I got my hands on The Elder Scrolls Online for the first time at E3, and I had a weird feeling while playing it. My lady Orc spawned in the town of Daggerfall, and I dicked around killing chickens and trying to find some dude’s pig. Later, I would become involved in a plot to try to kill Daggerfall’s king.

It was, more or less, exactly the same as my typical Elder Scrolls solo experience. Character creation was pretty familiar, if simpler, but the typical races were represented. I went around doing a bunch of quests that didn’t have much to do with one another, and I wandered around looking at stuff while random assassins tried to murder me. I talked to some people, and my dialogue options were usually pretty meaningless. It’s all what I would have expected from any other internally developed Bethesda RPG.

One might read what I just wrote and interpret that as me asserting that TESO is some sort of grand evolution of the MMO, but that is not at all what I am trying to say. Rather, what playing TESO made me realize is that all those other Elder Scrolls titles were actually MMO-style games that you had to play alone. That’s not an insult, because those games have avoided some of the key annoyances about MMOs, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

To be fair, TESO is not exactly identical to Skyrim. There is an action bar, for one, though there is no cursor as mouse look is locked on. Yeah, you’ll hit the left mouse button a lot to attack, but then you’ll throw some abilities, which you buy with skill points that you gain from leveling up, in from time to time with the 1-5 keys. And, like, uh, I’m sure there were other things that were different. No, this feels like Elder Scrolls.

If you are, say, a fan of The Secret World, you’ll have an experience that you’ll find quite familiar. That’s not a bad thing, because The Secret World is quality. And all those single-player Elder Scrolls games aren’t too shabby themselves, so the fact that we are getting an honest-to-god MMO translation of a franchise that lots of people love with some stylings that we’ve seen in a very accessible MMO sounds honestly pretty awesome.

But even though I might call a game like Skyrim a single-player MMO, I should note that it and other Elder Scrolls titles have avoided probably the most awful of MMO trappings, the “go there and kill X MOBs” quest. I was assured that TESO avoids those toes of quests as well, and in my 30-minute session I didn’t encounter anything Iike that, instead taking on tasks that mostly had points. And while a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic might have painted over quests of that sort with a plot-related purpose delivered by excellent voice actors, they were still there. I can’t say if TESO will actually completely avoid the template, but if the full game really is as much like a Skyrim or Oblivion as it seems, then we probably don’t need to worry about that too much.

It’s curious that Bethesda is managing to replicate the core Elder Scrolls experience without covering the landscape with quest-related instances as SWTOR is. Each area in the game world will be instanced to keep the populate under control, and dungeons will be instanced specifically for your group, but otherwise it’s a free-for-all.

It also makes me wonder what sort of impact TESO could have on the MMO genre. This could be a meaningful moment for the genre. That alone makes TESO a game worth watching.

Considering that TESO is an actual Elder Scrolls experience, and it includes every region of Tamriel, one has to wonder if there is any need for another solo Elder Scrolls experience. We learned this week that TESO will launch on Xbox One and PS4, and so Bethesda’s bases are covered. And it’s a game that, because it’s an MMO, can grow forever. It’s possible, I think, that The Elder Scrolls online could be everything an Elder Scrolls fan needs going forward if Bethesda truly dedicates themselves to it.

It also makes me wonder what sort of impact TESO could have on the MMO genre. I’m sure there are lots of folks who enjoy both MMOs and Elder Scrolls games already, but there are likely many folks who only play the solo games who will be exposed to MMOs for the first time. When they find that, hey, this game is totally what they like, but they can also quest with their friends if they want… This could be a meaningful moment for the genre. That alone makes TESO a game worth watching. And the possibility of folks who are primarily MMO gamers making the leap to the single-player side is also very real. TESO, by virtue of being similar to other games, may manage to bring folks out of their niche caves, at least a little bit.

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13 Comments

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  1. backup

    Entrie series is so boooooooooring

    #1 10 months ago
  2. Hcw87

    Your life is boring.

    #2 10 months ago
  3. backup

    @2
    Your life is downloading torrents and killing developers

    #3 10 months ago
  4. GwynbleiddiuM

    @3 is that based on facts? if it is prove it, if it isn’t just stfu.

    #4 10 months ago
  5. Samoan Spider

    @3 That’s why consoles are trying so desperately to get a slice of the pie Steam baked for them :P

    #5 10 months ago
  6. TheWulf

    @3

    You mean how you can now download both PS3 and XBox 360 backups? And how cracking the PS3 isn’t that difficult at all? Not to mention that pirating games on consoles is inherently safer due to the lack of malware.

    You mean how, after limited sales on consoles, indie developers are coming to the PC and finding they’ve made more in a week on Steam than they’ve made in two years on the 360 or on the PSN? Like that, you mean?

    I’m sorry, I think I’ve lost sight of your point, here.

    Seriously, if you have that much PC envy, just go out and buy a damn PC. It’s obvious at this point that you’re being all tsundere at the PC platform. You outwardly pretend to hate it, but you secretly want to bone every PC you see. So just buy a damn PC already.

    #6 10 months ago
  7. deathm00n

    Was the method of payment described in E3? Is it F2P, P2P, B2P?

    #7 10 months ago
  8. yeoung

    I love TES games, I love the idea of MMO’s, yet somehow I just can’t seem to get excited for this.

    #8 10 months ago
  9. backup

    @4
    yay based on facts
    Westwood,THq killed, u got Tombstone.

    #9 10 months ago
  10. backup

    @5
    PC are getting Ports not console

    #10 10 months ago
  11. backup

    @6
    again Piracy happens through PC not through consoles
    consoles games are pirated through PC which is sad truth and because of that some developers are no more

    #11 10 months ago
  12. Samoan Spider

    @11 And pricks like you comment through PC. But then none of your PS4 game demo’s would’ve worked until this week without the PC and none of your favourite games would’ve been coded without the PC. None of your favourite artwork would’ve been drawn without the PC and Mac. So I guess you’re right, the PC does have a lot to answer for.

    #12 10 months ago
  13. Vice

    As long as single player Elder Scrolls are being released without always-online shit or just multiplayer overall, I don’t give a damn about mmo. But just touch my single-player experiences and you’ll lose money. I ALWAYS have a choice to pirate it or not.

    #13 10 months ago