When I first thought of an Elder Scrolls MMO my first thought was 'Sandbox!!!'. This is because this has been the basic underpinnings of every Elder Scrolls game since Arena. Bethesda's Executive Producer Todd Howard said it better than anyone. “What we do at Bethesda is create a massive world where we drop the player in and just let them go nuts.” This is their motto, their credo and their goal in creating any new TES game. Total player freedom to do what you want when you want. This is what The Elder Scrolls is at it's very core and this is what fans have come to expect.
(A map of the provinces of Tamriel.)
When I first heard they were creating an Elder Scrolls MMO my initial reaction was one of great anticipation for what that could mean for the MMO genre. Bethesda has always been known for 'breaking the mold' so to speak so I though we may be finally getting the AAA Sandbox game that would put Sandbox MMOs back into the mainstream again. This made me excited not only for an Elder Scrolls MMO but for what that could mean for the games that could follow if it was successful. They had a chance to redefine the MMO genre here if they did it right.
(Defining your character into whatever suited your whims in Daggerfall.)
What happened next surprised and shocked me to the very core of my being. They released the first bits of information about the Elder Scrolls online. I won't go into specific details as I'm sure anyone reading this already knows why I was shocked. Lets just say that what they have planed is Dark Age of Camelot with an Elder Scrolls paint job and World of Warcraft trimmings. Instead of the genre redefining title I was expecting we are going to get a rehash of what came before. They played it safe and this will be their undoing in my honest opinion.
(A screenshot from Dark Age of Camelot... Close but still not Tamriel.)
Playing it safe will alienate a very large portion of their core audience of TES fans as it is the polar opposite of everything they have come to expect from an Elder Scrolls title. Playing it safe will put off a large portion of the MMO player base as it will be a rehash of things they've played a thousand times before in dozens of games at this point. Playing it safe will also put off a lot of PvE'ers as their will be at least one province (Cyrodiil) that will be closed to them because of unrestricted PvP.
(Is this the type of UI you really want in an Elder Scrolls game? Really!?!)
The only bit of good news that has come from all of this is that Bethesda Softworks is only playing an advisory role in the creation of this new MMO. They are providing 'Lore Guidance' and that is it. This game is being produced at Zenimax Online Studios which is a totally separate branch of their parent company Zenimax Media. This means that hopefully Todd Howard and his team are hard at work on the next installment of the Elder Scrolls single player family of games or at least fixing some of the bugs still present in Skyrim. This also means that even if the Elder Scrolls Online is the total train wreck of a game that I fully expect it to be at this point TES will live on in the form we all know and love.
Note: This is my first blog here at MMORPG.com and depending on how well it is recieved it may be the first of many. Tell me what you think!