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Does Bethesda know what it has?
It was inevitable really. Everyone’s doing it. The vast fortunes that can be made by tapping into a repeatable revenue stream is too tempting to resist for most companies and so Bethesda has finally announced an Elderscrolls MMO. Fans have been begging for some kind of mulitplayer support, for the series for years now and Bethesda has promised to deliver.
I’ve played Morrowind a fair bit and an absolute shit-tonne (That’s how we spell it here in Canada) of Skyrim, but didn’t play any of the other 2 predecessors. So while I can’t count myself among the die-hard Elderscrolls fans, I do have some strong feelings about the I.P. What I love about an Elderscrolls game is the sheer size and detail of the world they create for each game. The ability to create a detailed character from scratch and watch his life evolve as he encounters the various factions, plot twists and random events that cross his path is what keeps me coming back replay after replay.
While I enjoyed the story from each of the last 2 games, what I didn’t get from either of them was a huge affection for the lore. The lore certainly provides a suitable backdrop for the game but when I’m not playing the games I rarely think of the story or the world. It’s the gameplay experience rather than the story that makes the game enjoyable for me. Bethesda could easily take the same sandbox gameplay experience and port it to a different genre and story and it would be just as enjoyable. Oh wait, come to think of it, they did exactly that with Fallout 3.
Which leads me to wonder why I should look forward to an Elderscrolls MMO. If Bethesda can replicate their successful gameplay experience in an MMO format then I’m interested, but I’m doubtful that can do it. Sandbox MMOs are rare, and successful sandbox MMOs are rarer still. A major studio producing an MMO will have some fairly large expectations for success and I suspect much of what makes the gameplay experience enjoyable for me will have to be sacrificed in favor of theme-park mechanics.
More and more I am convinced that successful MMOs need to be born from innovative gameplay rather than popular intellectual property. I.P. may get the ball rolling, but without gameplay, that ball comes to a dead stop pretty quickly. SWTOR is a good example of this. Hopefully Bethesda recognizes that much of the true value of Elderscrolls is not lore based.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be watching development of the game with some interest, but until I hear a lot more detail, I’m not getting excited.