With Zenimax Online neck deep in development of Elder Scrolls Online, all has been quiet on the Eastern front of video games (because you know, they're in Marlyand). With a large presence at E3 and now moving quietly into July the game looms like a shadow over the MMO space for 2013. We are very excited to see what the team has in store for the next year as announcements start to come out. However, there is one thing very important to remember: the MMO needs to be sure some major Elder Scrolls elements are worked into the game.
The good news is that Matt Firor has said they are working very closely with Todd Howard and his team on the game. This is exciting because you really have two experts, well more like mad scientists working on the world in their own unique ways. However, the first thing which both Paul Sage and Matt Firor have said in many interviews is that the game encourages open exploration. In Skyrim it has been one of my favorite things to just openly explore the world. I have an Orc character that has yet to do any official quests and just continues exploring and getting into trouble. Allowing for this style of game play in an MMO is fantastic. While, quests, raids, and PvP battles have all become staples in the MMO market, the element of exploration is critical to a game and something that has been lost to many. For Elder Scrolls fans this aspect must be in the MMO.
In an interview Paul Sage did with Gametrailers, he mentions one of the very important changes to Elder Scrolls is that you want to play with your friends. As much as Skyrim was the apex of single player RPG content, many people have said they wanted to have that experience with this crew. The MMO will open up this possibility and allow players to explore Tamriel together. As much as Elder Scrolls Online wants to remain true to the single player series, bringing this world into an MMO is another core factor for success.
Next up is the interface. We all know it and we all love it. Having an interface that players are familiar with from both the single player game and having traditional MMO elements is the perfect blend. The compass system from Skyrim will keep players focused without needing a mini-map. It also helps in the explore mode to track down points of interest in the world. Accessing your character and gear is also something that should reflect the series as well. Most of all your Talents or Perks are going to be very important on how you build your character. This interface should be smooth and flowing and not bog players down with confusing information.
Combat... well where to begin? In Skyrim I find the combat to be very realistic, yet is leaves me wanting more. I love that my Orc with his two handed Dragon Bone axe can one shot foes. I have always thought that MMO combat is like a chess match of skills on speed. You have to know when to use your attacks, defenses, and buffs. You have to be an expert in the character you play and work towards really having skills to win. MMO combat should not be a quick one shot to the head, as much as I and others would love that. It should be a challenge, it should demand focus and reflex. The combat system in Elder Scrolls Online is probably one of the most important systems in the game. The team has not said much about it yet, but we wait to hear every word on how this system will work. The key is really balancing fast paced combat with the skills sets players will have access to. I do feel that the flow of combat needs to be fast, especially with Matt Firor at the helm and the PvP system. There's no room for slow-paced tab-targeting combat here.
I think the ESO team as a few things on their side. They have a very strong team for starters. They also have time to watch the MMO market over the next year and see how major players like Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars perform. They can hopefully make polish and minor development changes in that timeframe to really deliver on what players want in their experience. I think their best bet is to start getting some player and fan feedback early. Betas are viewed as more of a blessing to fans, I think in this case Beta should be a surgeon’s tool to really work and calculate all levels of Elder Scrolls Online before it launches.