If you’ve been living under a rock the last few days, you’ll not have heard that the often rumoured Elder Scrolls MMO was officially announced. The Elder Scrolls Online has been in development since 2007 by the studio ZeniMax Online (instead of Bethesda, the traditional developers of Elder Scrolls content) and is set to release in 2013 for both PC and Mac.
So what do I think of this, now that it is official and no longer a rumour? First and foremost, I would say that there is great potential here. It is offering the entirety of Tamriel (by the looks of it), something that has never been done before and something alot of players have wanted. If the developers can avoid MMO traps that would see it fall into “Yet Another Generic Fantasy MMO” and transfer certain key aspects of the Elder Scrolls experience into MMO land without tarnishing them then it could be a winner.
But while I am a little excited about the prospect of this and I acknowledge that there is potential, I am also terrified and dislike this direction; I’ve always been opposed to an Elder Scrolls MMO in the past. For as much potential as there is, there is perhaps even more chance for spectacular failure. The ambition is clearly there, after all, representing all of Tamriel has to be considered ambitious if nothing else. However, it is highly unlikely that they are going to have the size and detail we have come to expect from the single player games.
I expect to be disappointed in that department in all honesty. And then there is the graphics. The screenshot above was released today, which appears to show off a warrior, mage and a storm atronach. It doesn’t look like an Elder Scrolls game. It looks more like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, or another fantasy offering. Yes, there are technical limitations when it comes to graphics in MMOs but I’d personally settle for Oblivion level graphics if it meant the look and feel that we know of Elder Scrolls games were to be preserved.
While The Elder Scrolls Online is being developed by a different studio, there’s still the fear (for me) that its potential success or failure could affect the single player franchise. Warcraft is a good example of a franchise going the MMO route, becoming successful and the genre that made the franchise what it was, being left behind. Warcraft 3 (plus expansion) is perhaps one of most successful, or certainly popular, RTS games of all time. Not so much for the core experience, but rather for the awesome map editor.
The immensely popular DOTA genre started from a map created by Warcraft 3 players in its editor. One could also argue that Tower Defense games became (more) popular thanks to Warcraft 3’s map editor. So when was the last time you heard about a Warcraft 4 in the works? So although we’ve been assured that the MMO will not impact the Elder Scrolls single player series at all, there is still that fear that it could.