A disappointing first look at The Elder Scrolls Online

Zenimax Online has a lot riding on the The Elder Scrolls Online, a game that has been in development for five years so far. I would have thought they would have wanted to make a bigger splash with their E3 presentation.

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Zenimax has a lot riding on The Elder Scrolls Online. Sure, it has a fantastic foundation given the success and fanatical following of the Elder Scrolls series. But, that hasn't been able to prevent Star Wars: The Old Republic from languishing. E3 was our first look at the game, and it should have wowed the crowd.

Instead, I was shaking my head, with a bit of a face palm thrown in.

The presentation showed off familiar spots from The Elder Scrolls games, such as Daggerfall, Morrowind, and Tribunal (a temple from the Morrowind expansion), along with plenty of ruins and dungeons for exploration. There were fly-bys of the scenery and zones, with an art style that will remind people they are in Tamriel, and promises of four-to-six-player and 25-player dungeons where players can utilize a real-time combat system. What was shown of the combat revealed a minimal interface that highlighted the familiar health, magic and stamina stats of the Elder Scrolls games. A mission was even shown where a player completing a time-traveling side quest to kill and undead werewolf in the past had implications on the present when that player returned. Finally, bits and pieces of the promised 100 vs 100 PvP were shown, offering a mass of screaming characters converging on a central location with swords swinging and magic flying.

And when the lights came up, all I could muster was "Is that it?" With a half-hour to show off its game, Zenimax offered an incredible lack of substance for a project that has been in development for five years. Maybe I was expecting too much, but I had hoped for a bit more flash and pizazz, or even something that I could actively talk about with enthusiasm. The graphics were flat, the combat system uninspiring and the general feel of the game had me thinking of vanilla World of Warcraft. Even the PvP, with a scale that had me intrigued, felt thrown together and tacked on at the last minute as an "oh by the way ..." When the minute-long E3 teaser spends just as much time on credits and titles as it does showing anything from the game, there is a problem.

The dwindling population problems encountered by Star Wars: The Old Republic since its launch has shown that a strong license does not guarantee success. And as fanatical as The Elder Scrolls player-base is, it will take a lot to keep them engaged. There are other MMOs in the wings--such as a new expansion for Rift and the Dungeons & Dragons-based Neverwinter from MMO veteran dev Cryptic Studios--that are poised to snap up players with an innovative character development hook or a new take on a popular pen-and-paper franchise.

The Elder Scrolls Online has a tough battle ahead, and based on their E3 showing, they appear unready as yet to handle it. Let's hope its next presentation offers a bit more "hell yeah" and a lot less "ho-hum."

Contributing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 11, 2012 12:00 PM

    John Keefer posted a new article, A disappointing first look at The Elder Scrolls Online.

    Zenimax Online has a lot riding on the The Elder Scrolls Online, a game that has been in development for five years so far. I would have thought they would have wanted to make a bigger splash with their E3 presentation.

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      June 11, 2012 12:08 PM

      I love the Elder Scrolls series but the more I hear about this game, the less I want to play it.

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        June 11, 2012 2:38 PM

        Likewise. I'm going to be pissed if this sinks the franchise, what a stupid move.

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          June 11, 2012 2:44 PM

          I'd imagine that it would be fine unless it sinks the company. The Elder Scrolls series makes tons of money and a bad MMO probably won't kill the enthusiasm people have for the single players games.

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            June 11, 2012 3:01 PM

            As long as they wait 5+ years to make TES6 so people had time to forget about a failed mmo

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      June 11, 2012 12:12 PM

      and this was a surprise to who?

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      June 11, 2012 12:18 PM

      This is going to be so terrible.

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      June 11, 2012 12:29 PM

      this game was dead before it was even announced.

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      June 11, 2012 12:31 PM

      I haven't heard a single good thing about this game yet. Maybe they'll delay it? It sounds really fucking awful

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      June 11, 2012 12:45 PM

      OR it could just be that they are keeping expectations at bay instead of overhyping things that won't make it into the game, be completely broken etc.

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        June 11, 2012 1:22 PM

        I'm trying to imagine a situation in which what you just wrote makes any sense.
        "Oh, ah, sir, let's not make sure the presentation too exciting - we don't want anyone to have any expectations! Those could really hurt our sales."

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          June 11, 2012 11:42 PM

          It makes sense in that way that they may not want to generate any false expectations, as many other game studios have done in the past.

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        June 11, 2012 2:24 PM

        I honestly do not see any way that the Elder Scrolls could possibly be made into a MMO that contains any part of what makes TES so good. Even if all their features are fully functional at launch I can't imagine that they could make a more compelling game than all the other MMOs that are coming out in this day and age.

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          June 11, 2012 4:36 PM

          This. TES simply doesn't lend itself to online gameplay. The whole point is you are an exceptional individual chosen to accomplish this amazing task. Once they make everyone exceptional then nobody is exceptional and the whole thing loses its charm.

          I'm a *huge* TES fan, but I have roughly 0 interest in this game.

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            June 11, 2012 4:53 PM

            It could easily work with 4 people coop, but they'd have to scale the abilities pretty well. It doesn't work for MMO at all though. Seems suicidal to try and do that.

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      June 11, 2012 12:45 PM

      I really wanted to like this. Really ...

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        June 11, 2012 1:00 PM

        Why?

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          June 11, 2012 1:27 PM

          I love the Elder Scrolls series and I like MMOs. It's like A Reese's peanut butter cup with the two best flavors in one place.

          But alas, I'm not impressed so far.

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            June 11, 2012 2:06 PM

            it never had a chance. its a pathetic cash in from a bunch of idiots still thinking they can tap in the WoW fanbase. this will fail much faster than SWOTR did.

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              June 11, 2012 2:42 PM

              At least people were excited about SWOTR before it came out, this has nothing going for it.

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                June 11, 2012 4:57 PM

                yea exactly, when i saw SWTOR i though, heh, i loved KOTR this could be interesting. When i saw this i thought, heh, I love elder scrolls, this is fucking atrocious

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                  June 11, 2012 5:03 PM

                  I was planning to buy SWTOR up until the last 3 months of previews revealed it would be another generic MMO. The designer has clearly explained the TESO is designed to be another generic MMO from the start.

                  Aside from meaningless names, it's the same old stuff.

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      June 11, 2012 12:58 PM

      Elder Scrolls Online : A 38 Studios game.

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      June 11, 2012 1:03 PM

      Bethesda have always made fantastic single player TES games.. i wonder why, oh WHY did they have the itch to try and make an MMO...
      there is nothing wrong in sticking with a purely single player game that oozes quality out of its every pore !

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        June 11, 2012 1:24 PM

        Because everyone who bought it and every reviewer always said, "this is awesome but I wish it had multiplayer".

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          June 11, 2012 1:27 PM

          so why cant they just integrate it in a single player game. say an arena or co-op instances

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            June 11, 2012 1:28 PM

            Just an FYI, this is not the SKYRIM team working on this. It is a dedicated MMO team that has been working exclusively on this for years.

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            June 11, 2012 1:31 PM

            I think that's what people really want to play... but Bethesda (the guys who actually make the REAL Elder Scrolls games) are probably just saying: "Hell no, we don't want to". And really... they don't have to because their games sell just fine without it.

            But yeah, playing Skyrim with a buddy or two in co-op? That would be awesome! I'd pay money for that.

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          June 11, 2012 1:32 PM

          yes, multiplayer, not massive multiplayer.

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        June 11, 2012 2:58 PM

        I assume this is rhetorical because it should be clear to everyone it is for the subscription fees.

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        June 11, 2012 8:33 PM

        Much like with Copernicus and Star Wars: TOR, it seemed like a lucrative and profitable idea back when they started it.

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          June 12, 2012 12:29 AM

          The problem is that when you're making a game with a 3-6 year dev cycle you can't just be shooting for the current target. You've got to be shooting 3-6 years down the line. Cloning what's popular "now" just means you're going to be dated when you get around to releasing.

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      June 11, 2012 1:13 PM

      Oh god I completely forgot that Cryptic is making Neverwinter. Such a fucking shame.

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        June 11, 2012 2:26 PM

        I haven't heard anything about it recently so my hope is that they will go out of business before this atrocity comes out

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        June 12, 2012 9:06 AM

        Oh god, I completely forgot Neverwinter was 4th edition D&D. Such a fucking shame

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      June 11, 2012 1:14 PM

      So pretty much some business minded thinker thought... Elder scrolls=$$.. mmo=$$ put both together and get $$$$$$$$$$$$!!! Right guys? Games aren't a name brand like clothes or a piece of equipment.

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        June 11, 2012 1:16 PM

        Unless your acronym is COD of course.

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      June 11, 2012 1:30 PM

      I'm probably in the minority here but I love the idea of a TES MMO.

      ...unfortunately this doesn't look at all like TES. No first-person, no TES skill system, etc. It may be based in tamriel but other than that it appears to be a straight-up WoW clone. It's a pity this will probably be the only TES MMO ever made, because they've squandered a great opportunity to do something new in the MMO space.

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        June 12, 2012 9:08 AM

        I think you're in a minority, in that an mmo can't capture TES effectively. Now, a multiplayer game up to 8, or even 16 players might be able to, but an outright mmo, I can't grasp the idea of it becoming TES.

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      June 11, 2012 1:40 PM

      I'm a bit skeptical on any early preview of MMOs now a days. All the early previews of SW:TOR were great, and now its sorta fallen by the wayside. I think the only way to know of this'll have a long term ability to survive is to wait for it to come out.

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      June 11, 2012 2:32 PM

      RPS has a nice interview with creative director from Zenimax which will leave you even more disappointed:

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/06/11/interview-zenimax-defends-elder-scrolls-online/

      I just don't know why this game even exists.

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        June 11, 2012 3:36 PM

        Holy crap, haha. What a trainwreck of an interview. The end in particular is brutal, that guy has no answer to these questions and is just dancing around it at maximum speed.

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        June 11, 2012 5:07 PM

        Haha, this is amazing. He comes off like Henry Winkler in Arrested Development.

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        June 11, 2012 6:33 PM

        this is like one of the most depressing E3s ever. sometimes I think the industry is so fucked.

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        June 11, 2012 7:45 PM

        I love this bit
        RPS: The E3 presentation was basically a chain of clearly defined glowing quest-givers. Will there be more impromptu exploration, though? Environments that tell their own stories, etc? Will there be books?

        Paul Sage: There’s absolutely a place where you’ll find books. Will that start off a quest? Absolutely, that could start off a quest. You can also find lots of places where there are no quests at all.


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          June 12, 2012 12:28 AM

          "Books?! We've got books!!" *turns to guy on left*
          Put some fucking books in the game, quick

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            June 12, 2012 5:36 AM

            So now some part of world in TESO will be West Virginia?

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        June 11, 2012 8:04 PM

        You can directly measure how much shit a game is getting by counting the times a journo asks a question and the dev starts off with 'it's interesting...'

        These poor people.

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          June 12, 2012 12:26 AM

          Hah, I noticed that as well.

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          June 12, 2012 12:30 AM

          At this point they must just be hoping that they get their initial development costs back from the first month sales. I still don't think they'll even get that though. :(

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        June 12, 2012 12:43 AM

        Lol wow I can't wait for this game's postmortem , what a crazy interview

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      June 11, 2012 2:41 PM

      I thought this might happen_I was afraid my favorite franchise, that I most desired multi in, would be handled like this....I just, didn't want to believe it could be so, terribly ordinary.

      I wanted the TES experience in an MMO setting. Not an MMO in a TES setting. I guess I'll have to give TSW a go, as this game looks to be nothing more than a cash-in with nothing new to bring to the table.

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      June 11, 2012 6:15 PM

      i just wet myself with grief

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      June 11, 2012 7:12 PM

      I wonder how if zenimax can take another bomb, outside of elder scrolls their games haven't been doing well.

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      June 11, 2012 7:35 PM

      this has disaster written all over it.

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      June 11, 2012 10:56 PM

      I think calling this TESO was their biggest mistake. By calling this an Elder Scrolls game you've now got expectations on what this game should be, and it's clear they aren't making that. Had this game been a new project that Bethesda was putting together with Zenimax, expectations would be much more tempered, and I think people would be curious about rather than "This is not an Elder Scrolls MMO".

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        June 12, 2012 5:32 AM

        Then there would be absolutely no reason for anyone to care.

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          June 12, 2012 11:54 AM

          No more so than anyone would have for Rift. As it is now it's not so much that no one dislikes what they see rather it's just not what they want an Elder Scrolls MMO to be.

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            June 12, 2012 11:56 AM

            EDIT: No one dislikes what they see, rather it's not what they want an Elder Scrolls MMO to be.

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      June 12, 2012 5:49 AM

      I hope this kills the MMO cash grabs for awhile. This is going to be a real doozy of a bomb. MMOs have lost their novelty and have been a way to be less creative and just collect monthly fees. We need a few years break from them.

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      June 17, 2012 2:53 PM

      I think this should be cancelled. I'm not even going to try and add any "if" or "unless". This is "The Elder Scrolls: Stillborn".

      I think you could do a very good networked "TES" without going all-out MMO. If I could "jump in" with my character and play along with up to four friends, that'd be enough.