A Rant About The Elder Scrolls Online

04 May, 2012

 

I’m just going to come out and say it.  Who else facepalmed when they found out The Elder Scrolls Online was going to abandon the gameplay roots and true exploration that made the series great…to give us yet another WoW clone?  Last I looked in the mirror, I could still see the handprint outline on my mug.

I couldn’t grasp it.  This game was THE opportunity to take over the sandbox MMO market that had died off after the debacle that was Star Wars Galaxies NGE in 2005.  Completely theirs for the taking. On top of that, they could have merged in some theme park elements in regards to raiding endgame instances and so forth.  A hybridization of the standard economy system from WoW and the player driven one from SWG could have been implemented to create something fresh and fun.

Saying that news of what The Elder Scrolls Online really is upset me would be an understatement.  I almost Fus Roh Dah’ed down the wall next to my computer.  All I could do was imagine playing Morrowind, Oblivion, or Skyrim with hundreds of others.  Everyone spread out across the vast landscape of Tamriel on adventures filled with quests and exploration.  Upon reading tons of different gaming forums, the consensus was the same.  Tons of excitement followed by a dark cloud of angst and frustration as the now infamous Game Informer leaks spread across the internet like a wildfire.

It can’t be stated any other way.  The opportunity was there for the taking and now we’re presented with a World of Warcraft meets Dark Age of Camelot mash-up.  Honestly, that doesn’t sound half bad considering how many people have wanted a successor to DAOC.  The thing is though, this is THE ELDER SCROLLS.  It’s not hotbars.  Not third person oriented…and definitely not a polished landscape filled with a vibrant color palette and seemingly minimal foliage.

It almost feels like I’m going through the Kübler-Ross model.  For those who don’t know what that is.  It’s denial, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.  I’m past acceptance at this point.  Nothing anyone does can change this game and turn it into what the vast majority of TES fans want.  How am I beyond acceptance though?  Simple really.  I understand WHY the game is what it is.  Hopefully this will help others calm down.

I’ve had a night to cool off and think things over.  It’s amazing what you can do when you just stop and think things through while pushing the emotion out of it.  For starters, the development of The Elder Scrolls Online started in 2007.  To put this in perspective, The Burning Crusade launched for WoW in January of that year.  Basically, the highpoint of the game’s popularity went from that point and into Lich King.  WoW had also only been out for a little over 2 years at the point (it launched in November of 2004).

At this moment in time, World of Warcraft clones had yet to arrive and fail in droves.  Likewise, people had yet to tire of them.  Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, the first big games to take a legitimate shot at WoW and fail, didn’t even release until May and September of 2008 respectively.  Don’t forget that The Lord of the Rings Online had released in 2007 and actually performed pretty well.  So where does this bring us? Put yourself in the shoes over at ZeniMax.  It’s 2007 and the theme park MMO genre has exploded.  Blizzard is making hundreds of millions of dollars.  Do you really think you’re going to invest your own millions in trying something as bold as making an MMO version of your single player experience? In 2005 you saw Star Wars Galaxies (a premier sandbox MMO mind you) implement a patch called New Game Enhancements in order to copy WoW, killing itself in the process because LucasArts/SOE wanted so badly to reach the market WoW had tapped.  Do you actually believe sandbox MMO was the answer floating in everyone’s mind? Heck no!  You’re going to go with what’s hot, making the big bucks and in the process you’ll put your own little twist on it.  The atmosphere over that was probably one of…people love WoW and people love TES…imagine the two together!

That’s why The Elder Scrolls Online has so many similarities to WoW.  They’ve been seemingly damned by the development time that MMO’s require.  People are now looking for different MMO experiences, and if we’ve learned anything in recent history, it’s that people who want to play a WoW like game are going to play…WoW.  It’s exactly what all my friends told me when they quit SW:ToR.  “If we wanted to play WoW, we’d play WoW.”

ZeniMax can make justifications for how real time combat can’t work (Tera completely discredits this excuse) and how player housing can’t be done the way players want (Star Wars Galaxies did it).  Perhaps their bet is that most people won’t catch on and question their statements.  They can’t really say anything else though.  Technically they’re right since the game they’ve developed doesn’t do these things.  Do you honestly expect them to come out and say, “uhh, we’re too far in development to make the changes people want.  We could have done all these things but chose a different rout when we started the process…so just get over it.” They have to make the best of their situation, which means a lot of fluff pieces and spinning.  At least they’re actively and openly admitting to World of Warcraft being a major influence,  unlike what we’ve seen from some studios in the past.  It’s almost as if it’s being embraced.

Oh, and as lots of people are blasting this game for running on the Hero Engine since SW:ToR uses it, don’t.  ZeniMax licensed the engine in 2007.  There’s no magical portal to the future they could use to see what happened to SW:ToR or the issues with the engine that upset some people who played the game.  They deserve no hatred for choosing to use it.  Besides, do you really want them making their own engine given the history their pals over at Bethesda Game Studios have had in the past? *wink*

Little joke at the end aside, there you have it. A rant of sorts filled in with logic to counter the feelings of betrayal instilled by a game not being what so many wanted.  I hope it’s a good one.  Baring some serious flaws I’m probably going to give it a try too.  I definitely feel sympathy for those at ZeniMax Online Studios.  It feels like they’re going to be on the defensive all the way through beta and launch.  I think everyone just needs to relax and take this one day to day, month to month, until we learn more about it.  Even if it is a lot like WoW, who’s to say it doesn’t turn out to be an exceedingly fun game?  Just like how people quickly hype games up to be the next WoW killer, don’t assume the opposite by claiming this one dead on arrival.  Perhaps one day we’ll get the dream MMO that weaves in the experience of multiplayer with the sandbox atmosphere and real time combat of an Elder Scrolls game.  It’s just not coming any time soon.

About the author

Related Posts

18 Comments

  1. zkylon
    zkylon
    May 04, 2012

    I think I’m missing context for this article, because I haven’t heard anything about TES Online other than its announcement, so I’m not sure I fully followed the article.

    I just can’t imagine anyone enjoying a Bethesda MMORPG. The only real strength of Bethesda games is exploration and atmosphere (and even that was sh*t in Oblivion). They suck at developing meaningful or interesting RPG mechanics (no C&C, no character builds, no strategy whatsoever) or and I’ve never played a Bethesda game with fun combat (button mashing or crouch+ranged weapon). So what does Bethesda have to offer to the abundant MMORPG world?

    TES Online was inevitable but, to me, it’s a waste of money. Bethesda is not Blizzard, and they should play to their strengths, just as the Blizzard guys do.

    • Randy Yasenchak
      May 05, 2012

      Zky! Long time, no see!

      In terms of playing to their strengths like the blizzard guys, I can’t help but notice that when Blizzard made World of Warcraft, they stopped making Warcraft games. Where’s Warcraft IV?

      My biggest fear is that this will happen to TES Online (if it becomes successful). If I don’t get a TES:VI, I might get a little punchy.

      • May 05, 2012

        Thing with Warcraft IV is that Blizzard views StarCraft II as direct competition, and it is. They have zero reason to release another RTS onto the market when their current one is fresh, thriving, and has two more expansions.

        Warcraft IV will come after StarCraft II has run through its expansion. So if you want the culprit that’s stopped the games, it’s not WoW, it’s been SCII.

        Don’t forget. ZeniMax Online Studios is completely separate from Bethesda Game Studios. It’s like BioWare Austin. Built from the ground up for the single purpose of developing an MMO.

        That said, as they don’t want people leaving the MMO, odds are high the next game is a new Fallout one or something original. The next Elder Scrolls single player game probably wont be until 2018.

        • Keck282
          May 06, 2012

          The problem with WC IV is that WoW is a sequel to Frozen Thrones. That being said I don’t know IF there will ever be another Warcraft RTS. Unless they have a huge recap of things that happened in WoW, WCIV doesn’t make much sense. The majority of WoW players never played the RTS games at all, so there in lies the problem.

          Really I just wish publishers and developers would just create MMOs that aren’t sequels or whatever to a particular franchise. Well unless they say it is an alternate version then I think it is fine. The thing with Final Fantasy is all of the games (with the exception of direct sequels) are separate from each other in story line so it is fine to do whatever (though I think their numbering scheme is messed up; the MMOs should be their own line not part of the number scheme).

          • Randy Yasenchak
            May 08, 2012

            Keck, you knocked it out of the park with this one!

          • Seluhir
            May 08, 2012

            I think if they’d taken World of Warcraft and set it centuries PRIOR to the first Warcraft… it would’ve been much better.

            I really think the only safe way to make an MMO in an existing canon universe is to just take it way into the past. That way the existing canon can continue to evolve, and as long as they don’t end up retconning the universe into non-existence in the MMO you’re still fine! ;)

      • zkylon
        zkylon
        May 05, 2012

        Yeah, been busy with work so I haven’t had the time to check up Elder Speak lately. The lower points of freelancing I guess…

        I’m not sure if there’s a direct relation between WoW’s release and the lack of a new Warcraft. I mean, WoW was launched on 2007 and it took Blizz three more years to release Starcraft 2, and Diablo 3 has been on development forever. There’s probably a connection but I would say there’s the influence is negligible compared to Blizzard’s overall release paradigm.

        Bethesda is nothing like that. They have a pretty consistent schedule and they only make one kind of games.

        I dunno, I’m not too scared about that. I’d kinda wish they stopped doing Fallout games altogether tho. I’ll offset your punchiness ten times over :D

    • May 05, 2012

      For the context.

      “Tons of excitement followed by a dark cloud of angst and frustration as the now infamous Game Informer leaks spread across the internet like a wildfire.”

      All the information this is based off of is from the leaked Game Informer article. Obviously I can’t post a link to it here. You could find it on Google though. It pretty much says everything one would need to know to have a very strong idea what this game is going entail.

      • zkylon
        zkylon
        May 05, 2012

        Oh, must’ve missed that line. Read a little about it and yeah, I agree, seems not to add up a single interesting thing to the MMO universe.

  2. ReK_
    May 05, 2012

    While I agree with most of what you said I just want to point out that the sandbox MMO genre is very much alive and thriving in the form of Eve Online.

    http://community.eveonline.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&nbid=28640

    • May 05, 2012

      The “sandbox” I was getting at is the one that involves a single or multiple planets where you explore and populate the surface in the perspective of a single character.

      While EVE Online is a sandbox in that sense with the player driven economy, etc, it’s completely different from the type of sandbox people experienced in Skyrim or an MMO like Star Wars Galaxies.

      The insane grind, statistical barrage and unique gameplay that is EVE Online is not what you’d want in a Skyrim MMO. I felt even though EVE has sandbox elements, it’s in a market completely of its own and has no baring on the future of a fantasy based/character driven sandbox MMO and thus did not needed to enter the discussion. People aren’t going to quit a Skyrim sandbox MMO for EVE Online or vice versa.

  3. Rain69
    Rain69
    May 07, 2012

    Bro i feel ur pain, felt it when they first announced elder scroll online, i knew i was not going to go co oping skyrim or ridding through the fields of oblivion with my band of brothers in first person. It is very hard for those business minded people to break from the mainstream that everyone know and likes like WOW. Most fps tries to be cinematic like cod, and after minecraft become popular there is more 8bit game in this era then the 8bit era.

  4. Major_Marbles
    May 07, 2012

    For me personally, the entire appeal of TES was the game-play and not the lore. Every fantasy game ever made has dragons, elves and magic; nothing really new. It was the way you interacted with those common fantasy elements which made it fun, exciting and visceral.

    All of the unique appeal is gone without the action oriented FPS-style mechanics. World of the Rings: Dark Age of Forever Questing

    • Seluhir
      May 08, 2012

      I’ve never been into the TES series… but playing Skyrim made me baffled at how anyone could possibly enjoy the insanely monotonous combat… I’ve always heard from my friends who love the series that it was the open world and the dynamics of it that made TES special and that the combat was just something you had to put up with in the pursuit of enjoying that world… which is completely opposite to what you’re saying here. Interesting how views even from long-time fans can differ so significantly.

  5. nintendoninjaman
    nintendoninjaman
    May 08, 2012

    can i say that it could be a good idea in the Elder scrolls Online if they ever reworked it to turn it to a 1st person MMO you can have 5 friends tagged to each other to do no damage to each other going through a dungeon. game play wise still same as SKYRIM tho my 2 cents

    • Randy Yasenchak
      May 08, 2012

      I think that would be an AWESOME idea. I’d play that until I was old and gray.

  6. Seluhir
    May 08, 2012

    One thing that really bothers me about everyone’s comments on the TES mmo is people complaining about 3rd person. You guys ARE aware that if it uses WoW-style controls like they say then you’ll be able to play it in 1st person as well… the only difference is that people who suffer from vertigo won’t kill themselves trying to play it because they’ll have the option of 3rd person… and they might actually enjoy the game because the 3rd person won’t be as horribly flawed as Skyrim’s was(no arguments – it was terrible). While the 1st person crowd will be largely unaffected except that just once they’ll have to zoom in their camera.

  7. Thomas Coutts
    Tom547
    May 08, 2012

    I agree with everything you said Randy, and I too fear for the future of the series if this does turn out to be terrible, but I feel that as long as Todd Howard is around we will still get awesome single player elder scrolls games because I think Todd Howard knows what the fans of the series want.