Elder Scrolls Online — Initial Thoughts

My initial thoughts on the recent Elder Scrolls Online announcement as a veteran Elder Scrolls fan is a mixture of both excitement and worry.

I’m excited to see yet another chapter in the Elder Scrolls series unfold with hopefully more adventures and lore to be discovered. I’ve enjoyed all seven ES games in series to some extent, even Redguard and Battlespire which weren’t entirely well received by the fans.

I’m also excited to see what the ESO director and experienced MMO developer Matt Firor and his large team of 250 developers comes up with. I’ve long been a MMO fan with years playing MUDs and more years enjoying EverQuest after that. While I’m older now and my gaming tendencies have changed I’m still looking forward to playing another MMO. Unlike a good portion of the ES fans I’ve always wanted to see an ES MMO game so long as it was done “right”.

However, I’m very worried that this is just an generic MMO clone with “Elder Scrolls” attached solely for increased exposure and revenue. After reading the Game Informer article everything just reeks of “generic” and almost nothing of “Elder Scrolls”. I realize that some sacrifices in design must be made when moving from single player to massively multi-player but you can’t just take a WoW/EverQuest/DAoC clone and put an ES logo on it and call it “Elder Scrolls Online”. I’m hoping and assuming that all the smart people at Bethesda and Zenimax Online realize this but the initial release information doesn’t do much to persuade me otherwise.

I’m worried that the features that are important to the single player ES games won’t make it into the MMO. The description of features so far already changes the basic skill based character development to experience points and real time combat to button clicking, both of which make me uncomfortable. The devil, of course, is in the details of how these systems are actually implemented in the end and it could easily go either way.

I’m a little worried about the quality and quantity of lore in ESO. There was only a little lore related information in the Game Information article and some it seemed “off” for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. A strong presence of good lore has always been important in the ES games and I expect nothing less from an ES MMO.

I’m already worried about the initial lack of community involvement by the developers although it only has been a few days since the initial ESO announcement. My opinion is that having an open communication between the developers and community for an MMO is critical for it to succeed in the long term. The initial announcement is almost the worst things they could have done: release rough information on an ES MMO which all but makes it appear to be a generic MMO clone. Any ES fan could tell you that an ES MMO was generally not wanted by the community and if it was it had to be done “right”. I think there needs to be a very obvious presence from both Bethesda and Zenimax Online (both Matt and developer leads) to both help calm the fears of ES fans as well as begin getting as much feedback as soon as possible.

I’m a little worried about the graphics. Although I’m usually the first to say that the graphics are not as important as other things like game play and performance they still are critical to the overall look and feel of the game. From the screen shots so far I’m in general underwhelmed and a little put off by the character models specifically. I’m hoping that since the game is still 12-18 months from release there is still a good amount of graphical polishing left although the fact these screen shots were probably picked as they looked “the best” makes me cautious.

Finally, I’m worried that labelling this as an “Elder Scrolls” MMO will result in the game’s failure to be much quicker. If this was just another MMO it would succeed or fail on its own merits. However, with the title of “Elder Scrolls” the game has a much higher barrier to succeed. You have a lot of dedicated ES fans used to the high quality of the existing ES games who will shun the game and quicken its demise if it doesn’t live up to its name.

In summary it would appear that I’m just a little excited and very worried about Elder Scrolls Online. While it has some potential to be great there is even more potential for it to fail miserably. My final opinion, however, will wait until next year when the game is actually closer to release.

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