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Elder Scrolls Online Column: Making it Feel Like TES

By William Murphy on November 16, 2012

One of the main reasons Matt Firor and Paul Sage told us they’ve waited so long before showing off Elder Scrolls Online is that they wanted to make sure their game could show up on the scene and be known immediately as an Elder Scrolls game.  A lot of people might just think that turning Tamriel into an MMO is no small task.  Put some multiplayer architecture behind the Skyrim engine like a few mods have tried, and let it loose.  But that isn’t Zenimax Online’s goal.  Their goal is to bring the world of Tamriel into the MMORPG framework while still retaining specific facets that make games like Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim such massive gaming hallmarks.  They want to make an MMORPG that fans of the genre will immediately grasp, but they also want to make an Elder Scrolls game that Bethesda fans will agree with and adopt as one with the series.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want that job of playing mash-em-up.

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But there are some things I feel that ESO can do to make sure they nail the Elder Scrolls feel.  This list is by no means “complete”.  They’re just some of the things I feel are necessary to make Tamriel with thousands of others playing at one time still resemble the more private Tamriel we know and love.  This goes beyond the aesthetic look in most case, and instead into the little things that made sure I played Morrowind for around 300 hours all those years ago.  Feel free to argue and add your own “must haves” in the comments below.

Books, books EVERYWHERE: It’s probably overlooked by a lot of people, but I love picking up and reading through the texts in TES games.  If ESO has ‘em (they do from what we’ve seen), then I’ll be happy.  I’ll be even happier if they have some sort of character development purpose.  But just from a lore perspective, they’re an absolute must.


Natural Events in the World: We’ve already seen that ESO has a lot of quests scattered about the world.  But want to see things like Bandits being attacked by wolves, ghosts haunting areas at night, and so forth.  I want the world to have the illusion of being alive that’s done so well in the other TES games.

Thievery: I’d better be able to pick the pocket of an NPC, steal from their cupboards, and have guardsmen come find me I’m seen.  We were told that it might not make launch, but that a morality system is coming.  I really hope they do put this in, and that thieving is even allowable in the AVA area of Cyrodiil.  Just sayin’.

Meaningful Crafting: Sure, one of the best weapons of Skyrim (the Mace of Molag Bal) was a quest weapon, but you could make some pretty damned awesome stuff in the game too as well as in past TES games.  If ESO wants to retain one of the core ingredients to the series, crafting needs to be one of the best ways to get armed and protected, and buffed in terms of alchemy (a personal favorite).

Lots and Lots of Dungeons: I’m not talking about groups instances or anything like that, but rather the places you run into while just exploring the game world.  MMOs of recent days tend to be too focused on getting you from town to town for quests.  ESO needs to let players explore the massive world they’re crafting (one which comprises locations from every past TES game), and in doing so it needs to have plenty of Dwemer ruins, crypts, caves, and more to delve into and find secrets within.  If it misses this, the game will lose a significant amount of its Elder Scrolls vibe.

Werewolves, vampires, and all that jazz: Along with the guilds of Tamriel, the notion of altering your character through “diseases” and gaining perks through questlines is one feature I really hope they consider putting in the ESO.  It’s very “RPG”, and something MMOs don’t often do on the path towards homogenization and “everyone’s a special snowflake but not really”. They’ve only hinted at it so far, but along with the game’s very open character progression, I’d really like to see a number of these special perks added too.

What about you guys?  What Elder Scrolls features do you hope make the game that haven’t already been touched on?  Leave us your thoughts, and feel free to slam mine.  I’m used to it by now. 


William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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