What We Need From the Elder Scrolls Online

Dear Zenimax Online Studios- developers of the Elder Scrolls Online,

First and foremost we demand an Elder Scrolls game.  MMOs are all well and good, but they have a way destroying their universes in favor of mass appeal.  When I first heard of the Elder Scrolls Online I let out a big sigh.  Why?  Because I knew better.  I knew we were getting a whole new development studio working on this game.  What’s made the Elder Scrolls series great up to this point has been Tod Howard’s motto of, “Build the biggest craziest game you can”.  Bethesda understands that players need to be able to simply exist in their world and find that alone to be exciting.  So, yes dear reader, I fear for the Elder Scrolls Online.

All that aside, when I flip through the screenshots and the fanboy in me is giggling like a school girl.  What do we want as Elder Scrolls fans?  I think above all we want the Elder Scrolls experience.  We want our character to be birthed into ESO and have the freedom to simply run in any random direction and start exploring.  We want to stumble across a cave and enter to find a book on the ground that talks about the Legend of Red Eagle .  We want to find Red Eagle’s ghost and fight him for his bad ass sword.  We want the freedom to tailor our hero exactly the way we want.  If I want to make an Orc sword-wielding mage that is also one with the shadows, I should be able to do that.  We want the freedom to join the Fighters Guild, Mages Guild, Thieves Guild- and yes… the Dark Brotherhood.  Give me my freedom ESO- and you can have my money.

Exploration and a Believable World

If the Elder Scrolls Online is to hold true to their series the exploration needs to dwarf that of every other MMO. What makes Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim so great is the sheer richness of their worlds.  Currently in MMOs you stroll up to a bandit camp and think to yourself, “Okay here lies a bandit camp filled with mods and nothing else.  I have no reason to enter the camp unless I have a quest telling me to”.  It’s sad, but true.  ESO should give you the opposite reaction, “I will enter this bandit camp and mercilessly kill those I find inside because who knows what I will find”.  BAM!  Meaningful exploration.

Class & Combat Flexibility

If the Elder Scrolls Online is to hold true to their series it will revolutionize the way we look at our characters in MMOs.  Why is it that every MMO is so focused on getting you to make alt characters?  Because the class system in MMOs is so damn restrictive- that’s why.  For the first 8 levels in Skyrim I was convinced I was taking the thief route. Then, a change of heart.  The Nordic culture must have rubbed off on me because now I wanted to be a warrior.  Did I have to start a new character from scratch?  Hell no!  Just put on some heavy armor and start swinging that great sword son!  Sure, you’ll suck at first, but that’s what mudcrabs are for.  Beat on a couple of those for a while and work your way up to frost trolls.

Nostalgia at Every Turn

If the Elder Scrolls Online is to hold true to their series, it will utilize the most powerful force in gaming- nostalgia.  You know, that feeling you get when you hear the Morrowind theme played again.  You think of the days gone by exploring that wonderful elven landscape.  ESO needs to bring those feelings roaring back through their music and their environments.  These new developers need to make sweet sweet love to the old art assets from past Elder Scrolls games.  We need to see churches to the Nine Divines in every city in Cyrodiil.  We want to explore old Ayleid ruins and Nordic crypts.  We wish to ride on backs of Silt Strider’s once again!

Pride

If the Elder Scrolls Online is to hold true to their series, it will have us taking pride in our characters.  Tod Howard (the demigod behind Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, and others) put it best in his DICE keynote speech:

“Most entertainment can give you lots of emotion, but what is the emotion games can give you that nothing else can?  It’s pride.  Pride in what you did.”

What Tod is talking about when you spend 2 hours decorating Proudspire Manor with Daedric artifacts.  Or that moment when you switch to third person mode to salivate over this heroic figure you’ve created after hours of play.  It is this self expression in Elder Scrolls games that give you this attachment to their fantasy world.  It’s something that the Elder Scrolls Online will want to recreate in their game.  How can they do this?  Like I previously mentioned a huge variety in combat styles wouldn’t hurt.  Imagine if every player you came across in ESO approached combat in his own unique way?  I for one rarely see two Skyrim players that approach combat exactly the same way.  Yet,  in MMOs today, power goes to whoever has the latest cookie cutter build.

I could go on and on about what we need from an Elder Scrolls MMO, but I’ll spare you the further wall of text… for now.  Suffice it to say, Zenimax Online Studios already has their audience.  The Elder Scrolls series brings with it a passionate gaming community.  I think it’s obvious that the Elder Scrolls Online should keep a solid focus on their existing fans, and the things they love about the series.  I pray to the Nine every night that Zenimax Online Studios won’t spend time looking at current MMOs like World of Warcraft.  We don’t want another World of Warcraft!  We want an Elder Scrolls game we can play with friends.  If they give us that I assure you we will see an MMO that will truly redefine the genre, and if not- it will fall into obscurity like all the other generic MMOs.  So pray good people of Tamriel!  Pray to Akatosh, Kynareth, and Dibella!  Pray for our TAMMMMRIEL!!! (Talos preacher reference)


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