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.