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What Elder Scrolls Online Offers Skyrim Fans, MMO Players

Zenimax Online faces the difficult task of appeasing several different sets of expectations from gamers who come from different games and genres. Read on for how The Elder Scrolls Online aims to appeal to several different fanbases.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

  • Seeing more of the world. Haven’t you ever been curious what the Argonian homeland looks like, or what riding through Daggerfall in a game with a modern graphics engine would look like? ESO includes sections of every province in Tamriel, so you can explore many of the locations you’ve only read about in books until now.
  • Lore. The Elder Scrolls franchise has an enormous body of backstory, and ESO is blowing it out even further. Zenimax Online is working hand-in-hand with the loremasters at Bethesda Game Studios to flesh out Tamriel’s Second Era, so lore nuts should have plenty to digest.
  • Finding adventure wherever you wander. Isn’t that what Elder Scrolls is all about? The Mage Guild’s gameplay revolves around finding ancient texts and bits of lore and runs throughout the entire game. Unmarked dungeons, ruins, caves, and other adventure-filled areas dot the landscape, so wandering through the Black Marsh isn’t a matter of grinding giant bugs for experience as it is a hunt for lost artifacts of ancient Argonian civilization, even though no NPC has given you a specific task to do so.
  • Touchstones. Daedric princes, birthsigns, guilds, and many more elements that players strongly associate with the franchise are all integral parts of the game. Some things, like player housing, aren’t making the transition to an MMO because of the constraints inherent to an online game, but Zenimax Online is including everything that makes sense.

World of Warcraft

  • Working with other players. While WoW’s world design and game rules expect you to fly solo outside of designated elite quests and group dungeons, Zenimax Online is going out of its way to make sure helping someone else out always benefits everyone. For instance, there’s no “tagging” and so helping a random stranger kill a monster results in both of you getting full credit.
  • That old BRD feeling. Blackrock Depths is often mentioned as a favorite dungeon of old-school WoW players for the sense of exploring a huge, hostile city instead of fighting through a series of corridors. ESO’s public dungeons, unless Zenimax Online badly botches the design, should recreate some of what made BRD special...but hopefully without the painful process of finding a group that wants to accomplish the same subset of goals that you’re looking to do.
  • Non-instanced PvP warfare. Remember the good old days of open warfare in the Hillsbrad Foothills as huge mobs of players fought over Tarren Mill and Southshore? Expand that to the entire province of Cyrodiil. Take out the server-crashing lag, since the engine can handle up to 200 players onscreen and Zenimax Online has still-under-wraps plans to divert excess population. Forget about lowbie ganking, since everyone’s stats are automatically boosted to level-cap status in Cyrodiil. Oh, and there are things to fight over besides murdering helpless questgivers. Like, for instance, keeps whose walls you can bash down with trebuchets.
  • Familiar but innovative combat. ESO has lock-on targeting and a hotbar, but it shakes up quite a bit within that framework. Limiting the number of available skills to a handful (currently six, but that number could change) but making each ability awesome sounds great. The addition of stamina for blocking, sprinting, interrupting, and disable-breaking should dramatically increase the moment-to-moment depth of combat.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

  • More fully voiced story. Does anyone want to go back to walls of text after Bioware showed the world how it’s done with Star Wars’ dialogue and story? No, no we do not. And we won’t have to in order to play ESO with its full voice acting.
  • Working with other players (see WoW entry, above). Outside of flashpoints, cooperating with other players in SW:TOR is extremely limited in scope. That hopefully won’t be the case in ESO.
  • Dynamic, large-group combat. SW:TOR did a great job of throwing different types of encounters at players even in its solo content, and ESO is following suit. The baseline solo encounter design has players taking on three enemies at a time, and they work together to bring you down by combining skills like lighting oil patches on fire.

Rift

  • Public content. Rifts are amazing, and Zenimax Online hopes to recreate the sense of working together with random strangers with the Fighters Guild content (destroying Molag Bal’s randomly appearing dark anchors) as well as public dungeons.
  • Polish and technical competence. Remember when Rift came out, and we were all blown away at how a team of veteran developers with a whole lot of money behind them could put out an MMO that was solid at launch? Well, ESO has a similar situation – game director Matt Firor was heavily involved with Dark Age of Camelot, creative director Paul Sage worked on Ultima Online among others, and team members at Zenimax Online across all disciplines can boast similar credentials. Anything less than a Rift-like level of stability and polish at launch will be a huge disappointment for ESO.

These are just a few elements of The Elder Scrolls Online that should appeal to the fanbases of various games. Fans of the franchise have a lot of questions yet to be answered, like how the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood will work in an MMO setting and how Zenimax Online is going to approximate the rich interactions with objects in the world that we’ve gotten used to since Morrowind. Nonetheless, writing off ESO as “just another MMO” or “WoW with daedra” is doing this ambitious project a grave disservice. Click the banner below to go to the hub, where you can see Firor and Sage explain their philosophies in video interviews, see screenshots, and get more details on the game as we roll them out all month.

Comments
  • Why oh why can't this game be more like Mortal Online?

    That would've been the perfect style for a TES MMO. Not this cartoony, third-person monstrosity that doesn't resemble TES at all.

    Just imagine an MMO like Mortal Online with the lore and diverse landscapes found in the Elder Scrolls. It would be amazing. I'd buy it without any hesitation.
  • I'm sorry, but I haven't heard one thing about this game to make me excited about it. Being able to explore Tamriel sounds nice, sure, but there's no way I'm paying monthly for that.  

    People have been wanting Skyrim multiplayer, not WoW in Tamriel. Five bucks this will play and look more like WoW than Skyrim, and that is precisely the reason why I'm not interested in it.

  • All I wanna know is how the game plays. Is it like standard MMOs or will the gameplay be similar to Skyrim? This is what I would like to know...
  • so this is for PC only er....?

  • Hope it turns out to be a great game

  • If they copy and paste another MMO then I will look elsewhere thanks.  I can't believe developers CANNOT grasp that concept.

  • if its just pc....im gonna have to skip. sorry

  • Waiting on the game play to reserve my judgement.

  • I like the wall of text. No bugs.

    But I don't understand the Openworld PVP and how there's no lowbie ganking. Do you hit level cap everytime you try to PvP?

  • If the monthly fee is 12-15 dollars a month.... I probably won't get it. Fees around 8 dollars or less seems much more reasonable to me. I like WoW but refuse to play beyond their free starter edition. I guess I am just a cheap skate.

  • What about us DCU players?

    (i also adore skyrim though)

  • Okay, interesting article, but it brings up a few questions. I love how they're focusing on exploration. Searching for artifacts instead of monsters to grind on sounds great, and right up my street (long time TES player), and I'm sure book hunting for the Mage's Guild is yet another aspect of that. Perfect. Working with other players without the need to group up is also an excellent decision, and something GW2 is aiming for. Although the way you group with players doesn't seem to have changed in MMOs (right click player, invite to party, wait for confirmation) I have noticed that players seem less interested in grouping. More anti-social and closed off, if you will. Maybe that's because of the stronger guild elements we've seen in MMOs, encouraging players to work with their guild mates and for their guild, and treat that as their social elements of the MMO - if you're not in their guild, they don't care about you, or want to know about you. They just want to ignore you. Maybe it's also because solo play in MMOs has been made increasingly easier (whether that's tweaks to exp gains and quest difficulty in WoW over the years, or companion mechanics in SWTOR). So it's great to see the simple mechanic of "If you're near each other, you can help each other and receive all expected benefits of doing so, without the need to invite and wait for approval." It's a much more tacit and natural temporary alliance, which is a fantastic approach to take. Fully voiced dialogue is another plus, for the exact reasons stated in the article, and a polished release like Rift is essential. Though just saying "It's going to be polished" isn't enough. I'm sure all MMOs were released expecting to be polished enough, but ran into unexpected technical issues. We'll have to see how that one plays out. Now for some issues, and questions: Seeing more of the world: Yes I want to see Blackmarsh, and I really do want to see it on a modern engine. Hero Engine is modern? I suppose if you go by the fact that it's current and being used today, then yes, that is A definition of a modern engine. But it sure doesn't LOOK modern. That screenshot suffers from the same issues as all modern Western MMOs - cartoon artstyle, with low polys, designed to run on low-end machines. Why do people do this? There are a lot of new MMOs being released right now (TERA) or in the same launch window as TES Online (Blade and Soul) that look drop dead gorgeous and can still be scaled down to run on low end machines. So yes, I do want to explore Black Marsh, but no, not on the Hero Engine with visuals like that. My modded copy of Morrowind looks better than that, and I can just as easily wait for a talented mod team to recreate Black Marsh for TES:3, 4, or 5. The other thing that worries me about exploration is this: Player Owned Housing isn't in the game "because of the constraints inherent to an online game." This is annoying me. I've seen that comment used several times now, and it's a lie. There's no other way of putting it. Star Wars Galaxies had open player-owned housing. I think Runescape may even have player-owned housing. These 'constraints' are fictional. If you don't think Star Wars Galaxies handled it well enough, then show them how YOU would do it. It's a staple of TES gaming, and needs to be in there for release. Don't make the mistake Bioware did and say "We'll work on adding these new features for expansions!" because players will realize the game isn't ready yet, and not pay you until the game is ready and waiting with the features they want. It also ties into my worries about exploration, because the issue housing would have is lack of real-estate for the thousands of players. That would mean the world being created is fairly small - more comparable to WoW's small patchwork quilt of zones rather than TES's beautifully realized 16 square miles of Skyrim. I've also read that although Cyrodiil is using the Oblivion heightmap for the province, it's been scaled DOWN. So how do I get that feeling of exploration, when the provinces are small enough that I can learn all of their wilderness locations by the back of my hand? How can I enjoy exploring it on a modern engine when it's rendered in an exaggerated art style instead of the realistic art style that TES games are known for, especially Skyrim? And my biggest worry is still the lock-on combat. Go play Tera, and you'll instantly realize that lock-on combat is a thing of the past. Go look at some Blade and Soul videos and you'll see that this 2013/2014 game is taking that dynamic combat even further (as well as exploration, but that's another matter). TES Online is doing a fine job of qualifying itself against existing and old games like WoW, SWTOR, and Rift.. but has it taken into account where the genre is heading in the near future? Why do the devs think that tab targeting and lock-on combat is going to compete with the likes of Tera, Blade and Soul, and god knows what else will be releasing in that similar time frame? I'll bet a sizeable sum of septims that Blizzard's next MMO has thrown lock-on combat out the window. I am interested in this game, being a huge TES fan and long time MMO player, but I'm a little concerned that TES Online is trying to compete with games from the last decade, instead of looking to the future and thinking about what players are expecting to see from the MMO genre in this decade.
  • I am very skeptical on some of these "features".

    I am going to reserve judgement until more definite information is released like gameplay videos.

  • Can't wait!

  • I want to be excited for this game but I'm just not. I hope they create something that lives up to the Elder Scrolls name. I really do.

  • Answer this question: Do I have to give you $15 to play it? If that answer is yes....sure as hell not buying this game.
  • So, I started reading Game Informer's article. Hot bars? Normal exp points? Sounds like every other MMO out there just with an Elder Scrolls theme slapped on it. I must admit I was excited about an Elder Scrolls MMO.... Now I'm pretty much disgusted. I closed this article after the first few paragraphs. I guess I'll be waiting on another game. Maybe someone will get their heads out of their butts and realize that we come to expect the Morrowind feel from the Elder Scrolls. Not hot bars and exp points.
  • How come there are all these great PC games but no console versions? Surely a console could handle the graphics and multiplayer capabilities? PC games like this make console gamers sad.
  • no housing sucks

  • I just don't like the idea of an mmo, I would much rather prefer a giant single player adventure featuring all the lands.