Since its launch, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has ensnared gamers in its gameplay web. Eschewing work, school, and marital duties, players have devoted every waking moment to exploring the vast realm of Skyrim, doing countless quests, and defeating dragons to become a mighty hero. While Skyrim is, proudly, a single-player RPG, a number of features can be found within the game that MMOs could learn from to make their gameplay better. As that both MMOs and Skryim promise similar goals of heroic adventures in a vast world that players can explore and adventure in, features found within Skyrim could easily be applied to MMOs. In no particular order, Ten Ton Hammer presents five features of Skyrim that will enhance MMO gameplay if adopted.
Content! Content! Content!
One of the best features found in Skyrim is the sheer number of quests that players can undertake. Many players actually ignore the main quest line in order to run around the realm of Skyrim doing endless side-quests. Each organization that a player can join, from the Companions to the Thieves’ Guild, all have their own quests for players to undertake. This leads to an extremely high replay value (as shown in our review of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim).
A key feature of MMOs is that players make tons of alts once they’ve maxed out their main character. Usually, the only different quests to be found when playing a new character are either from playing a totally different faction or the starting zone quests for specific races, such as in World of Warcraft. After doing a character or two, you find yourself doing the same old quests over and over again. However, in Skyrim, while there aren’t an infinite number of quests, there are plenty enough to do for a number of characters, especially if they really focus on playing a specific style such as full mage or fighter.
Adding more quests to MMOs should be a no-brainer. The quests found in Skyrim also tend not to follow the usual MMO style of “gather x number of herbs” or “kill x number of beasts.” Rather, the quests in Skyrim tend to focus on a specific story or plot that the player tries to complete. Adding lots of additional quests, and having those quests have a good back story which makes them more fulfilling to complete, is something that MMOs should take from Skyrim.
Crime Can Pay
One facet of gameplay that most MMOs ignore completely, but is a functional feature of Skyrim, is crime. In fact, the red hand of theft in Skryim can be extremely profitable and lead to further adventures, such as quests from joining the Thieves’ Guild or the Dark Brotherhood. While some games allow you to pickpocket (WoW) or pick locks (Dungeons and Dragons Online), the freedom to go down the bad path is never an option. Isn’t gaming about indulging our fantasies and playing as something that we are not? Why can’t we play a REAL thief or assassin in a MMO? Why can’t I break into a merchant’s shop and steal his inventory to resell at some other place? Just imagine players burglar-proofing their in-game housing to make sure that their goodies aren’t stolen. By not having crime as a viable option for players to do, MMOs are forcing gamers to play good guys all the time and are depriving players of the added tension and intensity of….
Crime Has Consequences
If players can kill innocent people and steal, consequences should be part of the bargain. In Skyrim, if players get caught stealing or killing within a town, they can be arrested, attacked by the guards, or have a bounty put upon them. Sticky-fingered characters can skip town to live in a different locale to attempt to avoid the trouble they’ve stirred up.
Just think of the opportunities that can arise in MMOs from crime and its consequences. If players act too badly within the borders of a particular faction, they could be barred from entering their territory or forced to do specific quests to get back in that faction’s good graces. Bounties are something that could add some nice suspense and tension to online gaming. What if in your favorite MMO, you royally pissed off some faction and they put a bounty out on you? No matter where you went, you would always be under the threat of constant attack from bounty hunters or agents of that faction. How awesome would it be if you were taking the tram to Ironforge and you were suddenly attacked by agents hired by the Silverwing Sentinels? Even better, if you wronged a player by stealing from them or hurting them, they could put a bounty out on you. Think of the possibilities! MMOs could have even more player interaction, actual interest of not pissing off factions, and additional quests to either anger a faction or get back in their good graces.
The World Doesn’t Stop and Start with You
One amazing feature of Skyrim is that the world feels alive and that the denizens of the realm go about their daily lives whether you are there or not. Most shops close at night, vendors and NPCs go to their homes to eat and sleep, and people walk around the towns and cities plying their trade or interacting with one another. In short, the people that inhabit the world of Skyrim have lives (albeit artificial) that do not revolve around the player.
MMOs do not fully immerse you into such a vibrant world. No matter what time you visit a major city, the shops are all open and the NPCs are always found in the same spot. At most, they may have a predetermined path that they take, but it’s usually minor. Porting the realistic nature of the world from Skyrim to MMOs would add a great deal of immersion to the gameplay experience. The game companies would have to set their in-game world clocks to the various time zones and the peak hours of gameplay. Wouldn’t it be vastly more interesting to get to a city late at night where most of the shops have closed? While you would always need a place for players to sell their items, perhaps there might only be a few places open late at night. Of course, these open-all-night vendors would be located in a more dangerous part of town, where footpads or bounty hunters have a greater chance of appearing.
NPCs walking around, talking with each other (and sometimes fighting) could lead to new quests opening up. Perhaps a vendor gets into an argument with an unruly customer and then appeals to the player for aid. Another facet that could emerge is the use of rumors to give players incentives to seek out specific NPCs or locations.
Flexibility is Awesome
A tremendous aspect of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is the flexibility of playing your character. As that there are no classes in Skyrim (only skills), how you develop your character is up to you. Want to concentrate on sword-and-board fighting? You can. Prefer instead to be a deadly archer or perhaps a stealthy assassin? What about a combination of several models or more? In Skyrim, you can do all this. In MMOs, you cannot.
While there are MMOs that have decent flexibility in character progression as you level up (DDO or rift with their soul gems), most MMOs lock you into a class progression that you choose at the beginning. Not only does this deny you the freedom of playing exactly what you want, it also adds frustration if you choose a class that you find out doesn’t suit your gameplay style. Your only recourse is to start all over again with a different class and play through the same quests you’ve just finished playing.
However, if MMOs follow Skyrim’s example, you can start out playing as a mage, but eventually switch towards another style if you don’t like slinging spells. While your perks may suffer (and this can be remedied by either paying or doing a quest to reset them), your base skills do not depend upon your character’s level. Increasing a skill in Skyrim is easy; just use it more often and it will level up. Your old skills don’t wither and die. Just imagine the surprise you can create if people know you only as a tank-style character, but you suddenly whip out some devastating Destruction magic in PvP! Greater flexibility allows gamers to play the characters they want to play and, I think, is much more fun that creating a dozen alts to cover all the various aspects of the game.
MMOs and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim both strive to provide gamers a world rich with adventure and fantasy. However, Skyrim has features built into their design and gameplay that can positively impact MMOs. Features such as adding crime (and its consequences), flexible characters, massive content, and a dynamic world should be embraced by the next generation of MMOs. Additions such as these will vastly increase the enjoyment and experience of playing MMOs.