TESO: Evolving or Devolving to be a MMO?

Last week I wrote that MMORPG’s are not single-player games as a response to the revelation that TESO will have a “core” part of the game be entirely single-player in which we pretend that other players aren’t even in the same world.  Matt Firor, Creative Director,  was published on PC Gamer today with more about the nature of TESO’s “evolution”.

TESO will have traditional MMO classes.

I want to approach the subject of TESO from a different angle this time.  Instead of saying MMO’s aren’t single-player games, how about The Elder Scrolls aren’t MMORPG’s?  I think too much of The Elder Scrolls is having to change in order to accommodate the MMORPG mechanics.

“Since we have a PVP component to our game it’s very difficult to make a skill based game like in Skyrim, so we went back to a more traditional character based system like in the older Elder Scrolls games just to make it easier to balance to make sure the PVP system worked,” Firor explains.

“Well the Elder Scrolls formula has kind of evolved over time, and if you look at Elder Scrolls 1: Arena to Daggerfall to Morrowind. Things have evolved in every game, so it’s not like they’re all exactly the same as the one before, there’s a clear line of evolution. What we had to do to make it an MMO is to kind of evolve over to the multiplayer side and there are some things that come with that.” [PC Gamer]

Despite having classes, previous Elder Scrolls games were reliant upon a skill-based system.  Most of you are probably familiar with the way Morrowind and Oblivion handled choosing a class, where the class simply determined which primary and second skills helped your character level.  Skyrim changed in a way that removed classes entirely and became more of a free point allocation to be whatever you want.  Arena and Daggerfall had classes, with skill components.  Matt is correct by saying that things have evolved in every game, but in my opinion he’s very wrong by saying that TESO is evolving by changing to a MMORPG class system.  It feels much more like devolving.

I love MMO’s more than most people, but I won’t pretend for a second that the traditional class system is evolved ahead of anything else out there.  The single-player approach, an obvious themepark nature, and looking at how far they’re going to have to alter their winning RPG formula to accommodate the oft clunky MMO mechanics worries me.  I foresee a very tough future ahead for TESO.

Hopefully I will be proven very wrong.  I won’t mind at all.

  • Another column here Keen: http://www.edge-online.com/news/elder-scrolls-online-return-public-dungeons

    Let me copy one comment that further ruffles my feathers, its complete non-sense and further epitomizes that some studios do not get what makes MMO’s so fun to play…anyway here it is:

    “When you think back to the fun MMOG moments in the first generation, it’s standing there, terrified, in an enclosed space, waiting for someone to come along and save you. We can’t do that punitive gameplay that they did in those days, but we can put people together in places where they want to work with others.”

    Who says you cant do that punitive style of gameplay, its one of the main reasons why old MMO’s had a sense of accomplishment and a Death Penalty that embodied not taking chances. I jsut dont get this mindset nor this studio who is making TESO.

  • Fuck everything about this. Just gonna sulk and pretend this game isn’t being made.

  • There’s so many things going the wrong way for this game. It’s shaping up to be so far away from an Elder Scrolls… I have to agree with Tristan. I’m going to go about as if this game never was or will be.

  • It’s not looking good, is it. I know it’s early days but so far it feels very much like a generic fantasy themepark MMO with TES branding on top.

    I don’t know why they aren’t doing a multiplayer expansion for Skyrim instead. I realise it’s not exactly trivial, but it must be cheaper than doing a whole new MMO. I bet it would sell well too.

  • I think the cookie cutter formula for MMOs might set in its current crappy model.

  • I think this is another examples of why we see MMOs fail. They are taking Elder Scrolls lore and banging that square peg into a round WoW hole thinking they will just print money from all of the Skyrim fans that come running. Having a skill based system in a game with PvP isn’t impossible; it’s just hard and requires outside of the box thinking.

    There is absolutely nothing stopping them from creating a big, open world with no levels, having instanced bandit camps/ruins/towers for group content, and then tweaking the skills for PvP (which at least to me, also sounds tacked on to TES.)

    It’s the fact that actually creating a true Elder Scrolls MMO falls too far outside of the WoW formula, and no one wants to do that for fear of not raking in 10 million subs.

    It’s time for an eye opener in the MMO industry: You are not going out-WoW WoW. It’s just not going to happen. If your only major innovation is “But it’s in the Elder Scrolls universe and we have 3 faction Pvp” you are probably setting yourself up for failure.

  • I always wanted to see the day they brought the Elder Scrolls to MMOs. They’re bringing MMOs to Elder Scrolls though. I know when I read the game informer article originally that I spent the vast majority of the time reading it just shaking my head “No” in disgust. This is simply a game that I won’t play. Looking forward to Elder Scrolls VI though.

  • MMOs struggle to reach market and very few of those that do fail fast or let alone make any kind of real impact.
    If a BioWare MMO with the Star Wars banner can start to fail so fast then I’m not too worried that this game will be able to hurt MMO evolotion too much just by flying the The Elder Scroll logo.

    I don’t know a single person who is interested in this game.

  • this going to be odd, i have played so many which sounded so good but were bad. I kind of wondering if this game will sound so bad but actually be good.

  • A public event that I won’t be grouping up for at launch.

    If I hear good things afterwards then I’ll consider it, but all of the MMO failed projects of late have soured my interest in traditional WoW clone model. From now on those type of games will have to earn my money with actual positive execution as opposed to just a vigorous PR campaign.

  • It is kind of fun to witness this trainwreck…except it probably will never get that far. This one has vaporware written all over it…maybe the name will carry it to release…somehow.

    At first sight, these MMO companies do not seem too bright. The stuff that they try to pawn off onto us is often ridiculously flawed and has epic fail written all over it. It is fairly obvious. However, in their defense, look at the potential customer base…I wouldnt be surprised if these new MMO companies are simply doing what their potential customer base is asking for. For the most part, the “average” MMO player is pretty clueless in what features they want. They may recite familiar features or they expect certain features (based on their limited experience with perhaps WOW) but they couldn’t tell you what is good for a new game.

    If you go to any new MMO game and check their forum, it is often the same picture: a few people that may know what they are talking about and a buttload of players that just demand stupid stuff, recite old expected WOW features (Where are my levels? What about raids? Are there battlegrounds? etc.), and generally should not be listened to. However, game companies do listen because this is the majority of players!!! I do think that some of the problems we see is because game companies listen to the wrong people (how else can you explain things like TESO).

    One example is 3 way RVR. How long have we been hearing and reading extremely well thought out arguments by people that actually get it that 3-faction RVR is a great feature to fix imbalance issues of the “traditional” WOW model of 1 faction against another faction. These discussions have been going on for years – for the Warhammer development, they were extremely prominent due to the relation of WAR to DAOC. Suddenly, everyone is doing 3-faction RVR (TESO, GW2, Dominus (RIP), RIFT is implementing it, TSW(?)) How long did it take though…way too long! Game companies need to listen to the right people…not the dumb masses. It may be counterintuitive because I want to listen to my large customer base because these will be the people paying my bills. However, these people are clueless and they give you just bits and pieces of information that developers mention to assemble into a clusterfuck of a game. Instead, listen to the people that see the big picture and the end result will be a much better result that everyone can enjoy.

    Also, I find it funny that 3-faction RVR is suddenly such an important feature in newer games. It is a feature that almost does nothing for traditional battleground insta bake PVP. This is open world PVP driven…a game element that is shunned by the masses and often given low priority. I do think that most of the new games fail because of the total neglect or mishandling of open world PVP.

  • This wont be a success, but lets pretend it is.
    What would become of the elderscrolls games?

    Example:World of “warcraft”
    Ever since their mmorpg became HUGE we have not seen any new rts warcraft games.

  • Things I wish the interviewer asked Mr. Firor:

    “Don’t you think it’s more important to get the spirit of TES right than to reduce your balancing workload? Moreover, how many players do you think will get excited about a core game feature which was decided on mainly to make your job easier?

    Lastly, have you ever heard of games called Ultima Online and EvE, which both seem to have skill-based character development and probably the best non-RvR PvP ever found in MMOs?”

    I mean, it’s their damn job as *designers* to *design* exciting solutions to these problems. That’s what design *is*.

    “When you think back to the fun MMOG moments in the first generation, it’s standing there, terrified, in an enclosed space…. We can’t do that punitive gameplay that they did in those days….”

    And who decided that, I wonder?

  • It will fail. It will be everything that’s wrong with MMORPGs. It’s really quite sad because it means we won’t be getting a proper Elder Scrolls MMO for a long, long time.

  • I’m confident this is the only Elder Scrolls MMO we will ever see attempted if it doesn’t do extraordinarily well.

  • Think it’s a bit early to write this off just yet; and it’s not as if Skyrim combat couldn’t be improved – archery is good, but melee and spells … less so. Besides, Bethesda found the skill based system hard to balance in Skyrim, with characters becoming ridiculously powerful following particular skill lines. And a TPV + skill bar system doesn’t have to be like WoW, just hope they discard tab targeting and root in place skills.

    First person view gives too narrow a view and that’s hardly realistic since it doesn’t take peripheral vision or the ability to turn your head into account – it’s more like wearing blinkers with your neck in a plaster cast.

  • I agree. TESO can still be a great game. I will, of course, give it a try like I do everything else — hopefully in a free beta test as to avoid paying anything.

    I also can’t ignore the warning signs they’re giving off.

  • The warning signs are quite glaring. SWTOR’s only good point was that it had me realize I’m done with these themepark MMOs that all come from the same cookie cutter.

  • @Roq: Its not hard to balance a skill based character system, its been done time and time again. The simple fact is that Zenimax is taking the easy road instead of iterating on principles that should be a staple of TES games, all in an attempt to maximize profits.

    This title will fail beyond belief, my only hope is that going forward studios see what GW2 has done in the innovation department and “hopefully” take a page and try new things.

  • Why do games and companies seem to shoot for extraordinary? I hate rift but they did shoot for the right target audience, got it, nurtured it and made a nice chunk of change. Eve the same.

    I an the inherent problems with publishers is they are too knee jerk. You need to keep pumping effort into your MMOs like eve and Rift do. The moment MMOs go south for EA they pull funding back a shitload and leave it to wilt.

  • See, and this is another problem with MMO development. If I were to drop a press release for a product I was investing in or was working on (TESO) and the reaction was luke warm to indifferent, I would seriouly rethink the direction of my product.

    They just don’t seem to (want to) get that if no one is excited about your product, no one will buy your product. The rest of the retail world gets this, I don’t see why MMOs are so slow to realize basic economics.

    Now for fun, imagine the reaction if they had dropped a press release stating “It’s like playing Skyrim with 1000 of your closest friends.” =)

  • It seems that most of you can tell the future and how well this game is going to do, amazing!

    The saving grace and why I’m still looking forward to the game, regardless of all the doom-mongering is that Matt Firor is on board and he’ll hopefully put the great elements of DAoC and WAR into TESO.

    /fingerscrossed, but I’m not going to write a game off after seeing a few transcript and a handful of screenshots lol.

  • I’m certainly not writing the game off entirely. I’m criticizing the idea of taking a great property, with great features, and dumbing it down to make it fit a model with absolutely no valid justification for the change.

    A few comments up I said that TESO may end up being a great game, but the ideas they’re pitching right now are awful.

    – A MMORPG intended to play like a single-player game.
    – Choosing to abandon skill-based for traditional MMO ability based classes
    – Themepark content delivered via single-player instancing vs. sandbox

    I don’t need to see the future to see a bad idea in front of my face.

  • Im not writing the game off either, it very well may be a big hit. However it will be so without me and most gaming buddies I know. It uses some great concepts but it doesnt go far enough in most other areas to warrant a second glance for those who want a true TES styled RPG in an MMO. They are defenitly playing it safe and in this day and age safe gets you no where but declining subs.

    The 2 things that will change my mind about TESO is:
    1. They are a Buy 2 Play with no sub based game, might as well follow all the way in GW2’s footsteps IMO.


    2. They rethink their content structure and remove all vestiges to traditional WoW/EQ styled Vertical Scaling (i.e. Tiered Gear, Raiding, and gear threadmills) and go for a more Horizontal Scaling system (i.e. Skill aquisition, Alternate Advancement, relevant content like GW2’s downscaling)

  • I think is devolving.

    From what i read so far, they only keep a few of features that made TES games good. So no dynamic combat, cartonish art direction, single player focus much? classic mmo classes: rogue, wizard and “e-gold farmer” lolz.

    Speculation i guess, time will tell.

  • Definitely devolving.

    Instead of (yet again) cloning WoW, all they really need to do is take the game-play mechanisms of Daggerfall and/or Morrowind (IMO, those had the best RPG mechanisms of the Elder Scrolls series), the graphics of Skyrim, and add multiplayer. I.e. keep the sandbox feel, the plethora of quests (even if many are virtually identical), the skill-based system, the custom spells, etc. and add multiplayer. Nothing else is really required.

    But of course, they’re going to try to clone WoW. And it’s going to more boring, inane suckage.