The Elder Scrolls Online: What we want to see
13th May 2012 | 18:00
The legions of Bethesda fans, us included, have been clamouring for an MMO set in Bethesda's meticulously crafted high-fantasy universe for years, our wish has finally been granted. You'd think we'd be a little happier about it, but all we can muster is a small nugget of happiness buried in a mine of abject disappointment.
Obviously it's too early to judge the quality of the game, but early details haven't inspired much enthusiasm. ZeniMax Online Studios seems to have gone out of its way to surgically remove all the defining qualities of an Elder Scrolls experience and fill the gaps with archaic MMO conventions and mechanics pinched from World of Warcraft. Not very befitting of a game carrying the Elder Scrolls name at all.
Although it would be easy to write a tirade about how ZeniMax is on the path to squandering an amazing opportunity we've been directed to take a more positive angle instead. So, below you'll find a few things that we would very much like to see in Elder Scrolls Online.
As always we encourage you to give us your ideas in the comments, maybe someone at ZeniMax will read it. If all else fails: online petition, those work right?
FREE TO PLAY
It feels a little strange asking for a triple-A game based on one of the industry's highest-profile properties to embrace free-to-play, it wasn't long ago that F2P was a mark of mediocrity. But in the current gaming landscape the free-to-play business model rules the roost, and in the oversaturated MMO genre it's the key to survival.
ZeniMax media needs to do everything in its power to steal mindshare away from established games like League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, DC Universe Online, Lord of The Rings Online, Guild Wars and dozens of others. Asking players to ditch games they've invested copious amounts of time into for an unproven one is a big ask, attaching a monthly subscription on top is downright suicide.
Sure, the Elder Scrolls fanatics will show up in force around launch, but - as the mass exodus from BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic proved - it would only be a matter of time before players go in search of freer lands.
ZeniMax needs to make the game free-to-play, the minimal risk will entice people to take a chance on it. From there it's up to the development team to supply top notch content to get players to part with their cash. We'd prefer it launched with the free-to-play model instead of starting off paid and then switching later, as analysts have predicted will happen.
MAKE US MATTER
Here's the premise for Elder Scrolls Online: "What happens when hundreds or thousands of prophesied heroes all think that they should be Emperor?"
Honestly? We don't care about what happens to anyone but us.
Being the centre of attention is an impossibility in a game world concurrently populated with thousands of other entitled players, but having all eyes on us is a large part of what makes the Elder Scrolls games unforgettable. In Morrowind we were The Nerevarine, reincarnated to defeat Dagoth Ur and restore the glory of Resdayn. In Oblivion we were the Hero of Kvatch, the legend responsible for ending the Oblivion crisis. In Skyrim we were Dovahkiin, an individual born with the blood and soul of a Dragon, fated to save the land from the World-Eater.
There's nothing like wandering through a town in Skyrim and hearing characters whispering about the Dragonborn and recounting one of your many feats of valor. After hundreds of hours of hot ego-stroking it's going to be difficult being just another face in the crowd, we don't like the sound of that one bit.
ZeniMax needs to come up with ways of making each individual player feel like they matter. We won't settle for lines of repeated NPC dialogue spewed at any two-bit hero that wanders up looking for self-confirmation. We want to feel like our specific efforts are being appreciated; give us groveling minions, erect statues of us in towns and forge unique weapons and armour for us.
We need to feel appreciated, we're willing to settle for groupies.
GIVE GRINDING SIGNIFICANCE
Love or hate it grinding is the lifeblood of MMOs and indeed all RPGs, but we want it to have significance beyond filling bars, dinging levels and scoring gear. Elder Scrolls Online could be the perfect opportunity to make grinding matter.
From the little details we have so far it seems capturing, securing and defending territory is a large part of the gameplay experience, this element of the game could be used to make grinding useful to the overall progress of your faction or race.
We're imagining a system similar to Mass Effect 3's Galaxy at War, where dispatching with enemies, keeping dungeons clear and holding areas of importance contributes to a fortification rating of some sort. This in turn offers bonuses to players of that race or faction to help defend against invasion attempts by fellow factions.
Obviously these bonuses would have to be balanced to keep things fair, but if done properly we think it could make for a really interesting competitive dynamic and at the same time preserve what makes MMOs so moreish.
Remember that bit in Fallout 3 where you had the option to set off an unexploded nuclear bomb couched in the center of Megaton for personal gain, or spare the shambolic Wasteland city and its denizens but make some very powerful enemies? That was a brilliant moment where the player felt they had a real impact on the game world.
We'd love to see ZeniMax take a page out of the Fallout design book and implement these kinds of world-affecting decisions in Elder Scrolls Online. This is a game where the future of the world constantly hangs in the balance, where each player is competing to tip the course of history in their favour, it would be amazing if players felt like their actions actually had an effect.
We know we're asking for a lot (what else is a wish lists for?) but we feel it isn't out of the realm of possibility, perhaps it could work if the game had...
Want to keep the players coming back for more and make them feel like they matter to the Elder Scrolls MMO world? We think weekly events would be just the thing to do both.
Here's our pitch: create weekly or biweekly events complete with unique quests and a mini-boss for players to battle. Not only would it be an opportunity to keep the story moving but it would also be a way to make players feel significant as an individual character and as part of a race or faction.
The regular injection of new content will also give those who reach the level cap quickly a reason to continue playing instead of vanishing until the next expansion pack is released. In essence we want ZeniMax to provide a constant stream of water cooler moments to talk about, to maintain a buzz around the game by flooding it with exciting content around the clock.
Sounds doable to us, what do you think?