E3 2012: The Elder Scrolls Online hands-off impressions

The Elder Scrolls Online has already generated a lot of debate among fans of the Elder Scrolls franchise just a month after it was officially announced, and it's not hard to see why. All of the previous games in the popular fantasy RPG series were single player only, but The Elder Scrolls Online is an MMO PC and Mac game where you will be playing with lots of other human players.

At E3 2012, we got to see some new footage of the game in a behind closed doors presentation at the Bethesda Softworks booth, along with some new information on the game itself, which is being developed by Zenimax Online Studios.

The storyline of The Elder Scrolls Online takes place 1,000 years before the events in the 2011 released RPG The Elder Scrolls V Skryim. We were told there will be three factions in the game; The Aldmeri Dominion will have the Altmer, Bosmer, and Khajiit races while The Daggerfall Covenant is home to the Bretons, Redguards, and Orcs. Finally The Ebonheart Pact has the Dunmer, Nords, and Argonians.

It's not all about the factions, however. Developer Zenimax Online Studios have also created a very personal storyline for the player character. You see, your soul has been stolen by a character named Molag Bol and it's your goal to get your soul back. It shows that the development team knows that many of the fans of the previous Elder Scrolls will want a solid single player storyline in addition to the more open ended experience that an MMO game offers.

When you go on a quest in The Elder Scrolls Online, there won't be the typical MMO hubs for quests. Instead, a number of different missions will come up as you simply explore a new area. As far as combat, The Elder Scrolls Online will be a real time experience rather than turn based. You will have three things to kept track of as you engadge in combat; Strength, Magic, and Stamina. This kind of real time combat will likely serve as another point of debate among gamers as it will be based on actions rather than just skills.

Yes, there will be player-vs-player battles for The Elder Scrolls Online and Zenimax Online Studios says that we can expect massive battles between the three factions with hundreds of players involved. If this sounds a bit like the older game Dark Age of Camelot, there's a reason; many of the team members of The Elder Scrolls Online worked on that game, including the team's leader Matt Firor.

Visually, The Elder Scrolls Online doesn't match the graphics that players who have played Skyrim have seen but they certainly seem to be on a par with what the best MMO games have to offer and they certainly should improve before the final game is released. While ZeniMax did license the Hero Engine early in the game's life, the company has confirmed that it was basically a "whiteboard" to help create some art assets while the team made its own client and server engine.

The presentation and trailer for The Elder Scrolls Online at E3 2012 shows that Zenimax Online Studios has already put a lot of effort in making the Elder Scrolls franchise into an MMO experience. However, there are a ton of MMO games out there that are trying to get the attention of a limited number of players. It remains to be seen if Zenimax Online Studios can make a game that will both please the many Elder Scrolls fans while still attracting a big enough MMO audience.

Image via Bethesda Softworks

NeoGamr and Neowin's coverage of E3 2012 is sponsored by War Inc. Battle Zone.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Riots break out at Foxconn production facility, dozens arrested

Next Story

Splashtop Windows 8 app test bed now on Android

9 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

All they are going to do is completely destroy one of the best RPG's there is. It will be the first time I will not buy an Elder Scrolls game. I really hope it fails massively and Zenimax goes back to the single player only game play that made Elder Scrolls the great RPG it is.

Not really. It's not made by the same people... Bethesda is responsible for the single player games, while Zenimax I believe is behind ESO.

bryonhowley said,
All they are going to do is completely destroy one of the best RPG's there is. It will be the first time I will not buy an Elder Scrolls game. I really hope it fails massively and Zenimax goes back to the single player only game play that made Elder Scrolls the great RPG it is.

It's not going to hurt the single player game at all... except maybe the brand. But if the brand could survive the misfires of Battlespire (multi-player Elder Scrolls) and Redguard (Elder Scrolls Adventure game) then it can survive the MMO. I do believe the MMO will crash and burn but I also believe there will be and Elder Scrolls VI that will blow us away and restore any damage the MMO may cause. Bethesda Game Studios will be fine, Zenimax Online I'm not so sure about.

The graphics, while disappointing, I could get over if they had a really good sandbox design. Heck, I play Minecraft after all! They are using their own engine, Hero Engine was just used early on to prototype things, but I do believe the screen shots we have seen are from their engine and not Hero Engine and it's been stated that the art style they display is intentional. What I find amusing is that their posters and teaser videos don't match the cartoony art style of their in-game screenshots.

I've played Elder Scrolls from the beginning (Arena in 1994) and people have been asking for multi-player from very early on. In 1997 Bethesda tried to make a multi-player version in BattleSpire and it failed miserably. The changes they had to make to keep the players together, keep time in sync (no sleeping, fast travel, etc.), and keep the game moving forward ruined the "Elder Scrolls" feel. I'm convinced that the ONLY way multi-player can work in Elder Scrolls IS an MMO and was VERY excited when it was announced they were working on one. What I've seen so far has been nothing but disappointing however. The graphics look cartoony, the perspective isn't 1st person, the progression isn't skill based, and most importantly it's not a sandbox which to me at least is what Elder Scrolls is really all about. In interviews they keep saying you can't do these things in MMOs but I keep reading about MMOs that are doing exactly that. Guild Wars 2, Pathfinder Online, Embers of Caerus, etc. Heck EVE Online proved open world sandbox MMOs were possible on an epic scale years ago but everyone just keeps copying WoW. I was really hoping for more from Bathesda.

Asmodai said,
I've played Elder Scrolls from the beginning (Arena in 1994) and people have been asking for multi-player from very early on. In 1997 Bethesda tried to make a multi-player version in BattleSpire and it failed miserably. The changes they had to make to keep the players together, keep time in sync (no sleeping, fast travel, etc.), and keep the game moving forward ruined the "Elder Scrolls" feel. I'm convinced that the ONLY way multi-player can work in Elder Scrolls IS an MMO and was VERY excited when it was announced they were working on one. What I've seen so far has been nothing but disappointing however. The graphics look cartoony, the perspective isn't 1st person, the progression isn't skill based, and most importantly it's not a sandbox which to me at least is what Elder Scrolls is really all about. In interviews they keep saying you can't do these things in MMOs but I keep reading about MMOs that are doing exactly that. Guild Wars 2, Pathfinder Online, Embers of Caerus, etc. Heck EVE Online proved open world sandbox MMOs were possible on an epic scale years ago but everyone just keeps copying WoW. I was really hoping for more from Bathesda.

I agree you on pretty much every point you make, but if what they say about the Hero Engine is true, we'll see much better art and graphics in the future. I would say, and hope, that the cartoon-style is ditched along with Hero Engine.

You have to remember how many players will be present though, in a real multiplayer game. Hell, I was part of a guild that brought down a World of Warcraft realm when we launched a full on attack on Orgrimmar, only to be met by a rival Horde guild.

If WoW servers can't handle something like that, and you see how crappy their game looks, it's definitely worth considering how they plan to approach the game if they plan to have battles with over 100 players participating.

Also, I don't really see them denying being able to do anything at all. If anything, they're following the Guild Wars 2 route by bringing some level of dynamic questing and the way the gameplay pans out (weapon based skills, combos between players). It definitely looks like they have put some thought into this, moreso than even I gave them credit for.

Overall, it will be an MMO, and like the guy in this video I'll link below says, they're not trying to copy+paste Skyrim into an MMO or throw basic MMO features into the Elder Scrolls world either. They want it to stand on its own for what it is. Honestly, I think this will probably be the first MMO that actually looks similar to GW2. Whether it's as good as GW2 though is another topic entirely, but it's good to see they've got the right idea at least.

http://www.joystiq.com/2012/06...ead-gameplay-designer-nick/

dead.cell said,
You have to remember how many players will be present though, in a real multiplayer game. Hell, I was part of a guild that brought down a World of Warcraft realm when we launched a full on attack on Orgrimmar, only to be met by a rival Horde guild.

If WoW servers can't handle something like that, and you see how crappy their game looks, it's definitely worth considering how they plan to approach the game if they plan to have battles with over 100 players participating.

Also, I don't really see them denying being able to do anything at all. If anything, they're following the Guild Wars 2 route by bringing some level of dynamic questing and the way the gameplay pans out (weapon based skills, combos between players). It definitely looks like they have put some thought into this, moreso than even I gave them credit for.

Overall, it will be an MMO, and like the guy in this video I'll link below says, they're not trying to copy+paste Skyrim into an MMO or throw basic MMO features into the Elder Scrolls world either. They want it to stand on its own for what it is. Honestly, I think this will probably be the first MMO that actually looks similar to GW2. Whether it's as good as GW2 though is another topic entirely, but it's good to see they've got the right idea at least.

http://www.joystiq.com/2012/06...ead-gameplay-designer-nick/


Have you seen how many people are present in EVE Online? Eve isn't instanced and doesn't have shards. Every single player anywhere in the world (except China) who plays the game is playing in the same virtual world. Also the three pre-set factions epic battle thing has been done before. I for one, and I'm sure I'm not alone, would gladly give up 100 player battles for more Elder Scrolls-like gameplay. The fact that in some respects they are following Guild Wars 2 is another example of the problem. The game probably has more in common with Guild Wars and WoW then it does Elder Scrolls. If I want weapon based skills I'll play Guild Wars 2, Elder Scrolls has always been skill based use-to-improve and so should the MMO. I don't expect them to copy+paste from Skyrim. Skyrim wasn't copy+paste from Oblivion which wasn't copy+paste from Morrowind, etc. But all of those games had certain things in common and those common things are what make them Elder Scrolls.... not just the lore. The MMO seem to have abandoned EVERYTHING expect the lore and that's a HUGE mistake in my opinion.

That's because you feel they're supposed to make the game catering to the Elder Scrolls crowd only. They just want to make a game in the Elder Scrolls universe, something that everyone could enjoy, and for the fans of the series, enjoy a little more. I mean, I'm someone that likes playing MMOs myself, despite the fact that there are only a few decent ones out there. If the Elder Scrolls Online really shows to be looking decent down the road, and is at least on par with Guild Wars 2 in terms of gameplay, you bet your ass I and many others will pick it up.

Zenimax is not out to do everything vastly different, but at least follow through with some of their own concepts while following an MMO that is already making a big splash breaking many of the WoW-like rules.

All in all, it's something we can do with or without. It's not like Bethesda is the one working on this specifically so instead of worrying about it being up to par with the Elder Scrolls entirely, we can at least rest easy knowing the next Elder Scrolls title won't really be effected by this.

Besides, how much experience does Zenimax have at handling an MMO for that matter? And how can we even be sure this will get off the ground properly? I think this will be a test to see what they can really do more than anything.