The Elder Scrolls Online takes a more stylised graphical approach than stablemate Skyrim because of the technical limitations of MMOs, according to Zenimax Online.
"We're not really at the technical state with MMOs to be able to pull off photorealism. Our target is 200 characters on screen for our massive battles. That puts us at technical limitations, as far as polygons and textures and things like that, so there's no way we're going to get photo realism," art director Jared Carr told GameInformer.
"So in order to make the game look good and interesting we make it stylised."
Carr emphasised that Zenimax is trying to make the game visually distinct by hand-crafting the environments, just like other Elder Scrolls games.
"Tthat's what people respond to," he said.
"A lot of MMOs, a lot of games, use procedural methodology to lay stuff down quickly. And we're not doing that. Our artists go in and hand-place all of the grass, place every tree by hand. That's where we get that unique look and feel for every environment.
"That's what Elder Scrolls games are really known for, particularly in the later games - that hand-crafted look and feel. And we're no exception."
Since The Elder Scrolls Online will revisit many locations previously featured in-game, Zenimax Online can draw on some assets from recent titles.
"We certainly have to reuse some houses and reuse some structures, but when we build out an architecture set, for example, we won't use every building in that set in every place," Carr said.
Speaking of art, it loks like Bethesda will repeat last year's hotel decorating effort. Check out the in-progress Elder Scrolls Online mural:
The Elder Scrolls Online is expected for Mac and PC in 2013.