What is The Elder Scrolls Online?
War has raged across the continent of Tamriel since time immemorial. We’ve experienced epochal conflicts from several perspectives: the Nerevarine’s fierce battles against Dagoth Ur in Morrowind, fractious lords desperately fighting against an otherworldly invasion from Oblivion, and a bloody civil war in Skyrim. The Elder Scrolls Online unifies Tamriel’s many provinces and sets players loose to experience the story of their own faction’s struggle for dominance. This time, saving the world from the awakening of ancient evil is only the beginning. What happens when hundreds or thousands of prophesied heroes all think that they should be Emperor?
So begins the allegedly leaked Game Informer cover story on the next MMO to get all hyped up about, TES Online
. The prospect of a massively multiplayer online game based on this franchise has always been a divisive issue for its fans. One group firmly believes the core of the experience is to be the single most powerful being on the planet, the lone hero that travels the land and makes his own adventure, perhaps solving whatever major or minor crises happen to find him -- having other Nerevarines or Dovahkiin wandering around would ruin everything. The other group thinks that traditional Elder Scrolls
style of open-world gameplay would translate perfectly to an MMORPG, and that having others running around to team up or duke it out with would add to the experience. Then somewhere in the middle, you have those that just want small-scale cooperative options, but that’s neither here nor there.
Regardless of which side you support, though, it’s very important to note that the fans’ general idea of what The Elder Scrolls Online
should be is NOT what is being developed over at Zenimax Online Studios. This will not be a game where you run around in a first person view, engage in hard-hitting real-time combat, cast all manner of spells, or dual-wield anything in either hand. By all accounts, this will be more of a standard MMORPG template applied to the world and lore of TES.
For starters, it’s built on the HeroEngine, a new generic base being employed for a variety of online games which has been suffering increased scrutiny as of late due to its [mis]use by EA/BioWare in Star Wars: The Old Republic
. Let’s face it: if the most expensive MMO of all time, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, can’t implement a game using this engine in a way that doesn’t exhibit a myriad of glitches, bugs, and performance issues, it doesn’t bode well for anyone else who tries it. As you can see from the screenshots, The Elder Scrolls Online
even looks somewhat similar to SWTOR, a result of the shared engine and philosophy of utilizing a lowest-common-denominator art style.
The trick for Zenimax Online is finding a balance between Elder Scrolls fans’ expectations and the constraints of MMO development in some areas, and deploying innovative solutions that push the genre’s boundaries in others. “We’ve really got to create a compelling game first,” says creative director Paul Sage. “It needs to be comfortable for people who are coming in from a typical massively multiplayer game that has the same control mechanisms, but it also has to appeal to Skyrim players. You want to hit those touchstones, but more important than that, you’ve got to create an experience that’s unique and fun.”
The article goes on to explain how they’re trying to translate the free-roaming adventure spirit of The Elder Scrolls
to an online game, explicitly stating “you may be doing it from a third-person perspective and using a hotbar to activate skills, but the basic idea is the same.” We’ll have to see about that… In the meantime, read on for more details and screenshots gleaned from this purported Game Informer leak, so that we may address the question -- should we be excited?