The Elder Scrolls Online is set to be one of the “big” games of 2014, something both marvelous and frightening at the same time. ESO comes with both the boon and the burden of Skyrim behind it, arguably one of the decade’s most beloved RPGs. Zenimax is compelled to bring that style of immersion to an MMO and to a genre that typically has a difficult time maintaining a high level of involvement to players. Luckily, the development team seems to be taking that challenge to heart, much to the delight of the game’s fans. It is nearly certain that ESO will be a huge hit at its onset given the large and enthusiastic community behind the series.
But what about those of us who dearly love both RPGs and MMOs who have, amazingly enough, never plunged headlong into Skyrim and who also don’t know much about the whole Elder Scrolls universe? What will compel us to play and stay in Elder Scrolls Online?
5. Breadth of the World
One of the unfortunate truisms in today's MMO space is that content locusts exist and that content is the most expensive part of a game's development. It seems that we often hear of "world firsts" and "level cap reached" within mere days of any game's release. This results in both player and developer frustration. Players want more, developers want players to go back and metaphorically savor the moments so lovingly created.
To that end, Zenimax is going to have to ensure that there is enough content to keep players, both experienced and newbs, busy for a decent amount of time. Everyone is, or should be, intelligent enough to know that there won't be a decade's worth of content ala World of Warcraft or EVE, but there needs to be enough to bridge the gap between release and the first major update.
Additionally, updates need to be more comprehensive than simply adding end game or holiday events, though those are important too. Developers need to span the spectrum of content and add bits and pieces to all of it. Given the rich and varied universe that Elder Scrolls is, expanding the world and player experiences in it should be doable but must be done in a timely fashion.
Immersion is going to be key for Elder Scrolls' success. Players want to feel like they are a part of something bigger than just another 'toon in the game world. Even those who have not played Skyrim but who are gamers know that the single player RPG is something special and that players identify with their characters and their experiences within the game world. Bringing a level of immersion into ESO will be vital to ensuring that newbs stay in.
One small example of how Zenimax is bringing immersive game play to ESO is in the ability for any character to use any weapon at any time regardless of race or class. Giving players that option, as it would be in the "real world" depending on the situation encountered, is an amazing thing and one that most MMOs don't offer their players. Newbs will undoubtedly be drawn into the game world and feel that they are a part of a living, breathing universe. Heck, the same can probably be said for experienced Elder Scrolls fans as well.
3. Social Aspects
These days any MMO that ships without robust social features included is often criticized for the omission. Newbs not only need to feel they are a part of a larger universe, but also need to have connection to other players, experienced players, who can help them wend their way through the game. Guild features and tools will be crucial to that end.
The ESO team is making positive strides in the right direction. One of the best things said so far is that ESO will not feature servers or realms that generally divide populations but will instead be a single, seamless, inclusive, all-encompassing world that all players inhabit.
It's just too cool:
The game automatically places you with friends, guild mates, people you’ve encountered before, and other like-minded players. Simply jump in and begin your adventure.
Of course there has to be the dry recitation of features that all players, newbs to the Elder Scrolls universe included, want to see: Dungeons, raids, crafting, meaningful three-faction PvP, mounts, quests, discovery, achievements, among many others. Most of us know that list by heart and fully expect that all of those things to be included in ESO.
While not technically a feature, the smooth relatively trouble-free launch of Elder Scrolls Online will be vital to the game's success. While a bad launch can be overcome (think Age of Conan and Neverwinter), newbs will be much more nervous about a bumpy start and may fly the proverbial coop if the launch issues aren't countered quickly.
Lastly, and to my mind, most importantly, newbs and all other players need to be drawn into the overarching story that is Elder Scrolls. The IP has a wealth of amazing background lore to draw from to enrich the game, to enrich the experience, to breathe life into the game in a way that most other MMOs simply do not. For many, story will be king and will be the key to their longevity in the game.
By all reports, Zenimax is bringing in aspects of previous Elder Scrolls games like an open world with hidden treasures of lore to be found in quiet off the beaten track locations. It is the so-called "small touches" like this that will keep players interested and involved for a good long while.
So what about you? Are you planning to play Elder Scrolls Online? What things do you feel are crucial to the game's success? If you're not planning to play, what would bring you in? Let us know in the comments.
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MMORPGmom.