E3 2013 – Do We Want an Elder Scrolls MMO?

GET IN LINE WITH THE OTHERS

 

I suppose this was inevitable.  The benchmark RPG known for its captivating single player experience has succumbed to the irresistible lure of the MMO.  Like Final Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons, and other successful single player IP’s, the ambitions of their spectacular world building skills have grown too large for one player to handle.

My time spent with Maria, an NPC and enemy modeler, was not unlike cramming for a finals exam – every question I asked was met with a robust list of bullet points or in-depth explanation. As you might expect, there’s a TON going on here, way too much to wrap your mind around in 500 words.

Everything indicates that ESO will continue the trend of MMO’s exploding in terms of player options.  Whereas 5 years ago MMO fans could have one character that specialized in each discipline and could hence experience every facet of the game, now they could only hope to carve out their niche in a couple areas.

All of the MMO staples will be well represented in terms of crafting, spell creation, potion brewing, etc.  With none of these systems in place, it’s impossible to say how well they’ll be implemented though.

Every major faction in the Elder Scrolls universe will be represented and open for the player to join, including vampires, werewolves, daedra,  and their respective hunters.  Players can expect to fight other players in accordance with their faction rivalries, although they won’t ultimately be to freely forge alliances or do anything so dramatic that it breaks the logic of the mythos.

Consider that none of the existing strengths of the recent Elder Scrolls games really play to a wide open MMO – in fact many of their proclivities run counter to recent design trends for the genre.

Skyrim was so wonderfully engrossing because their key mission story arcs were so compelling.  Far from dabbling in the smoke and mirrors of algorithmic tricks seen in MMO’s, this was a direct result of fantastic story telling (even if the writing itself wasn’t great).  Sure there were plenty of random, indistinguishably similar dungeons.  But the hand crafted tombs and palaces were spectacularly memorable and awe inspiring.

Their most impressive innovation for Skyrim – a ‘radiant storytelling’ system that constantly directed a player according to monsters/characters/dungeons types etc they had yet to encounter – completely breaks down in a randomly matched multiplayer setting.

The most disappointing thing about the demo was that the combat had that noticeable MMO delay to it – you click, beat; he swings, beat; damage registers.  Like a transparent cleft between the player and his character, it engenders a sense that the player is simply the captain issuing orders, as opposed to the character itself.  That’s a big step back from Skyrim’s highly tactile combat.

How about all those endearingly goofy Skyrim videos we’ve all come to know and love on Reddit?  One million cheese wedges rolling down a mountain, getting punted half a mile by giants, spawn battles between 100 dragons and 500 Daedric lords – think any of that will happen in ESO?  MMO’s are not mod friendly.

Bethesda is surely a highly talented team, having already proven themselves with Skyrim and Oblivion.  They deserve the benefit of the doubt – whatever they end up shipping will certainly display the kind of polish we’ve come to expect.  Let’s just hope they have an Elder Scrolls VI in the works as backup.

Author: Wu

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