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    Do We Really Need The Elder Scrolls Online?

    The logo is heavily influenced by The Human Centipede

    It was just last week. I was screaming at Skyrim along with fellow OBG conspirator Eric B., when we began to flesh out the details of an online Elder Scrolls game. You create your character, choose your race, and start in a predefined, racially logical area of Tamriel. You begin your quest learning the ropes on your own, and as you gain experience, you venture out farther in the world. Before long you meet with fellow players to systematically destroy whoever and whatever you want in the open world fashion that has endeared The Elder Scrolls series to us for all this time. As it was detailed, we pictured this title in the fashion of Borderlands, or Left 4 Dead; more of an online co-op experience than a massively multiplayer affair. You could enter instanced towns with hundreds of others to find a group of adventurers, or enter player-vs-player areas across the world. It is brilliant stuff, and I was convinced the idea would make us millions. Until it was pickpocketed. I'm absolutely convinced that Microsoft and ZeniMax have tapped Kinect mics, taken our idea, made some lawyer-proof changes, and pushed this thing out to the public in what I imagine to be two sleepless nights. Stolen Game Jam?! Nah, not really.

    The Elder Scrolls Online has been in development since 2007 and is set for release next year, far eclipsing any timetable I could have imagined. I'm not worried about the time and effort placed into TESO, but rather the impact it will have on the future of Elder Scrolls games. If this online title is a hit, it's not a stretch to say future sinlge player Elder Scrolls games could suffer. MMOs are a time, money, and power-sink for everyone, dev and player side. If this title kills and becomes Zenimax's golden child and cash farm, all their focus could possibly go into upkeep and creating additional content, causing all other single-player games to suffer a lack of Skyrim (see: awesomeness.) Tamriel is a massive, lore-filled world ya know. On the flip, what if The Elder Scrolls Online burns to the ground like a fallen Blood Dragon? It's ashes scattered across the gaming world in the form of talented employees being absorbed by other studios like a soul of its former host. These situations do happen in worst case scenarios, and in these days of tight pockets, failure of a heavily invested MMO can be defined as a worst case. Of course, it's too soon to assume any failures or successes, but it can't hurt to speculate right?

    We know The Elder Scrolls games come from a long line of successful titles, filled with action, adventure, and the open world before you. The Elder Scrolls Online is confirmed to be fully voiced, which is a positive notch in its belt. As a Star Wars: The Old Republic vet, let me tell you that a fully voiced MMO really lends to the immersion. We also know that ZeniMax Online Studios will be foregoing Skyrim's free and open battle system in place of a more typical hotbar system that most massive multiplayer titles use. Ooooh, not a good move here, guys. Part of what made Skyrim so exciting is how wonderfully combat was handled, and being able to do just about whatever you wanted to a ill-fated frost troll in real time. The point-and-click hotbar model will strip all that good and could make this title just another MORPG in an M market. Finally, and maybe most importantly, the open world and the affect the player has on it will be completely marginalized in the online realm. Previously, if I didn't like the room offered to me by an innkeeper, or the tone of voice a villager was giving me, I could snuff them out. Forever. Two years later, that innkeeper would still be dead, and that villager's wife would still be widowed. Or maybe, the widow married the innkeeper's husband, and had become the inn's de facto owner. That was the beauty of the game: the randomness, the finality, and the long-standing impact that came along with it. In a world co-owned by hundreds of thousands of other players, this type of dynamic is impossible. How will I be able to permenanty end any non-player character that glitches at me, when the Breton Mage aptly named Ishartedmyself needs that character to complete a faction-specific class quest? If these mechanics were allowed, Tamriel would be knee-deep in NPC corpses, and populated with nothing but players. Of course, if that were the case, the player base could be responsible for every facet of the world's success or failure, but that's a completely different discussion.

    Early TESO concept art and screens. World of Warcraft, is that you?

    To be completely fair, it's too early to say whether or not The Elder Scrolls Online could exist in a market that's already saturated with massive multiplayer online games. To be a complete dick, the departure of this title from the roots of whence it came could be a deal breaker. Sure, ZeniMax inherits the valuable online gamer's coin, but in doing so they stand to alienate the Elderly Scrollers who have been with the series since Daggerfall, and the newbs who fell in love with Oblivion and Skyrim. Failure here could cause a catastrophic ripple effect through the ranks of one of my favorite series. So please, don't Wabbajack this up, guys.

    Do you guys think MMO is the way to go? Leave your thoughts below.

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