Watch the teaser trailer for The Elder Scrolls Online, the epic MMO in development at ZeniMax Online Studios.
The Elder Scrolls Online will divide players up into three playable factions, with a fourth political faction serving as the enemy. The latter is the Imperials, who have done a deal with Molag Bal and have intents on conquering Tamriel with an undead army.
The Daggerfall covenant is an alliance between Hammerfell, Highrock and Orsinium (the Orcish Kingdom in High Rock). Those looking to play a Redguard, Breton or Orc will find themselves signing on with the Covenant. These races aren’t exactly known for their friendly relations, with the Orcs in particularly barely even being recognized as a kingdom in their own right by the Bretons who rule over High Rock.
The Aldmeri Dominion is the second playable faction, an empire comprising the provinces of Summerset Isles, Valenwood and Elsewyr. If you have aspirations to play as a High Elf, Wood Elf or Khajiit, then serve the will of the Dominion.
The last playable faction will be the Ebonheart Pact, an alliance between Skyrim, Morrowind and Black Marsh. Nord, Dark Elves and Argonians will find themselves siding with this faction at the start of the game. This is also the most nonsensical faction of the lot, given that Nords have hated Elves since their first arrival on Tamriel. They’ve also warred with the Dark Elves before and speaking of the Dunmer, they have a long history of raiding the Black Marsh and enslaving Argonians.
The game itself will take place in the second era and if we go by when the first Aldmeri Dominion was founded (2nd Era, 830), then there are a number of other complicating lore issues or retcons at play here. Tiber Septim was born around the same time that the Aldmeri Dominion was formed and as we all know, he went on to unite all of Tamriel and usher in the third era. The more I learn about this, the more I wish it was only a rumour and not fact now.
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.