Sunday, 21 April 2013

Bethesda just don't get it


The news of the Elder scrolls online isn't new and yes me mentioning it now is old hat, but I was recently in a conversation about the game and how people online have commented on it being a kind of 'meh' title.  The problem is that it's the game nobody has been asking for yet Bethesda seem intent on giving it to us.

I mean what was the main selling point of the elder scrolls series?  Choice and the feeling that your actions were your own and not that of a pre-scripted event that was always meant to happen.  Your character is a blank slate that you decide every facet of outside of the games stats and class options.  If you wanted your character to be a thief, murderer, paragon of justice, explorer or whatever it was up to you.  That was the great thing about the series is that it had no restrictions and allowed you to discover it's treasures at your own pace.

Players have always wanted the option of playing that kind of game with a friend or two and this isn't out of the realms of possibility.  You would just make it so only the host could activate quests and collect quest items etc. so the other players can't accidentally ruin a quest line or lose important items.  Obviously most LAN or online cooperative groups work together anyway so the chances of these kinds of issues are few and far between anyway.  So have Bethesda listened to this and thought "let's do a MMO game instead". 

Leaked footage which is sadly no longer available showed a pretty generic MMO game that held little interest beyond it being Elder scrolls but with hundreds of players.  The systems all looked like those of Skyrim but now the character idea is ruined because you are now 1 of thousands of other nameless prisoners arriving on a ship from X location.  Players would immediately spoil all the surprises of the gameworld in chat anyway within a week whether you wanted to know or not because that's what happens when you play MMO games.

It's also a pretty odd decision to make for Bethesda who arguably have the top spot of open world games to go into the crowded and difficult MMO space.  Sure it may be the only first/third person open world game based on a highly popular gaming franchise but when it has to compete with other fantasy titles like WoW, Lord of the rings, Everquest, Runescape and more will it really be worth the subscription fee?  Knights of the old republic had a whopping $200 million dollars spent on it's production only to tank within a six month period and go free to play.  Does Bethesda and Zenimax really think they can bring enough singleplayer gamers to the MMO genre just because they slap Elder scrolls on the box?

I could imagine X fans being pretty confused if the next X game was announced as a MMO instead of another update to the setting and the fiction.  X3 and it's expansions would have been even better had we been able to play it with a few friends.  Maybe in the future X5 will allow us to do this, but if they tried massively multiplayer as the answer they would be wasting their time and also have to compete with EVE, which would be ill advised and going into territory they are not experienced with anyway.

Personally I don't see the elder scrolls online as being a hit.  Fans of the series will likely pick up a copy and play it for the first month or two but eventually complete it and leave or go back to Skyrim with it's multitude of mods and additions.  Give it six months from launch and the reports will be coming in about imminent server reductions and a falling player base.  The genre is tapped out, the games that are there are what people will play and it will again evolve as new trends pop up.  Bethesda would be better served making Elder Scrolls 6 rather than a tired MMO game, they just have to have cooperative play in the next game and it will better than Skyrim.

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