Five reasons an Elder Scrolls MMO is a terrible idea

6 mins read

So, the rumours out in the Internet are claiming that there will be an Elder Scrolls MMO announced in May.

And here are five reasons I reckon that will be up there with the dumbest ideas yet in the games industry:

1) The atmosphere would be ruined

Elder Scrolls games have always been about atmosphere; building what feels like a living fantasy world, complete with exotic cultures, architectures and with that wonderful music backing up to create a vibrant videogame equivalent to Lord of the Rings. That would fall to bits the moment you wandered into a city to be spammed by townsfolk saying something along the lines of “1K GOLD FLAMING SWORD LOL!11one!!”

That’s not fantasy. That’s not epic. And that’s impossible to suspend disbelief with. Everything that is so carefully crafted in Elder Scrolls games would be instantly ruined.

2) Elder Scrolls RPGs are not MMO RPGs

It’s mystified me to see people ask for an Elder Scrolls MMO. Yes, to an extent there’s some similarities between the Elder Scrolls games and MMOs. There’s fetch quests. There’s a heavy focus on killing big boss monsters. And there is a levelling system that is fairly similar.

The great difference is that every MMO I’ve ever played, from World of Warcraft to Final Fantasy XI and Guild Wars, has set its quests up to be self-contained little adventures. Do the quest, collect the reward, move on to the next one.

Elder Scrolls quests are usually linked to one another, and that’s why they’re so interesting. In the Elder Scrolls games, you’re building a character, not just speccing him/ her out to the max. It’s a subtle difference, but the reality is that the Elder Scrolls quest structure that we all love would not suit an MMO.

3) Most of the fun stuff in Elder Scrolls games makes for boring MMO play

I’ve spent hours at a time just sitting down and reading the hundreds of books that lie around the world of Skyrim, and Oblivion and Morrowind before that. I’ve never read a single book in an MMO. I can’t even remember a single conversation I’ve had with a NPC in those worlds.

But it’s the books that make the modern Elder Scrolls games so special. Over the years Bethesda has built up a wonderful lore and sense of history about its games, and that makes them the experience they are. An experience that leaves the lesser RPGs in their dust, and makes games like Kingdoms of Amalur challenging to compete.

But no one is going to read the books in an Elder Scrolls MMO. There will be more incentive to go out and grind some loot. The game will be working hard to convince people not to care about the world Bethesda has so carefully built over the years. It’s a disconnect that I can’t see be resolved.

4) Bethesda can’t make a game without bugs

We all forgive Bethesda for its bugs because the games underneath are amazing. This won’t work in a MMO. People expect a stable experience with their online games. I’ve known people to give up on an MMO as a result of a single failure. After all, there are a lot of other MMOs out there.

Bethesda don’t know how to make a game without nasty bugs and crashes. And it’s up against some very good, stable games in the MMO category. I don’t see it magically putting together a flawless game now, either.

5) It’s not going to be an Elder Scrolls game, not really

Bethesda is, according to rumour, setting this game before any of the other Elder Scrolls games. Now, I love a good prequel as much as the next guy, but often as not the prequel is an excuse to forget everything that has happened since in the game’s timeline, and start fresh.

So it’s going to look like an Elder Scrolls game, and it’ll have some of the names we read in the books of Elder Scrolls games, but it’s not really an Elder Scrolls game. It’s set apart; more like a side game than a real part of the time line, and that idea isn’t really winning me over. If there was an Elder Scrolls MMO on the way, I would want it set in the familiar lands I’ve just explored over three amazing games.

So what are your thoughts? Would you like to see an Elder Scrolls MMO, or would you rather May be an announcement of a single-player Elder Scrolls VI. Let us know in the comments below!

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  • no…No…NNOO! It's all wrong! An MMO would completely destroy everything Bethesda has worked towards over the entire series! I don't want to hear anymore news on the Elder Scrolls until a few years time when the next one is announced for the next gen consoles!

  • I have mixed feelings on this topic.  Some of the things like:

    designing your home(s) to show off

    the action-oriented combat

    the crafting systems (though they would need modifying)

    A lot of this feels like it could really lend itself to an mmo atmosphere. 

    The quests thing I'm not as sure I agree with in this article, simply because I know a lot of the quests in WoW are chained, involved ones and they were quite frankly my favorite ones.

    That said, there are some serious concerns too.  Combat would still need some serious checks and balances put in.

    The bugs.  Dear lord, the bugs.  If there's 2 things Bethesda is known for now, it's huge, sprawling RPG worlds and loads of bugs ranging from amusing to game-breaking.

  • So, I'm going to point to Star Wars: The Old Republic a lot in this post. If you haven't played the game, try a free weekend of it or something. It's a great look at how a great RPG (KOTOR) can be successfully turned into an MMORPG.

    1) I fail to see how the game being an MMO does anything to ruin the atmosphere of The Elder Scrolls game. There are already people walking around in the games, now those people will be alive, and working on quests like yours. As far as “1K GOLD FLAMING SWORD LOL!11one!!” goes, there isn't much of that in SWTOR, thanks to a kiosk that allows you to put your items up for sale at set prices, along with the use of an item binding system so that once you equip something, no one else can.

    2) The Elder Scrolls RPGs are exactly what MMORPGs need. People are done with the "Go kill 5 boars" type of quest line. They want epic. No one does epic like Bethesda. In SWTOR each class had an individual story line (that they could complete with the help of others) that was nothing short of epic. [SPOILER] My Jedi Knight had Sith teaming up with him because the emperor was going to destroy the galaxy. If that's not epic, I don't know what is. Each planet had a series of quests that were related, along with the usual side quests. All of the storyline quests built on eachother, with several climaxes all heading up to one big ending.

    3) There will always be the hardcore Elder Scrolls fans that will pay attention to the funny things that make the game great. If you can honestly say that you would take the time to explore and find those funny things (I know I would), then most likely there will be others that will too.

    4) Have you ever played an MMO? Almost all of them are full of bugs. That's why usually there is an in-game bug report system. It can be annoying, but if anything Bethesda has more experience recognizing and fixing bugs than any other developer out there.

    5) I fail to see how this game being set before the modern games, makes it "not an Elder Scrolls game". It would very much be an Elder Scrolls game. I don't really think Bethesda would ignore all the history they've taken so long to build and craft and just throw it out the window. They want to give us the chance to live in a time period we've already read much about. Perhaps we'll get to know the Dwemer or the Falmer, something fans have been Clamoring for for a long time. They'll be setting up events that we've seen unfold. Perhaps we'll see some reasons why things happened, and it'll give us a new perspective (and reason to replay) some of the older games.

  • Hi Casey,

    Wow, thanks for the long response! I appreciate your perspective 🙂

    I think it's obvious that there would be a market for an Elder Scrolls MMO, and clearly you're part of that group. I'm sure the game would be a success, and Bethesda would do a great job.

    It's not really for me, though. To me, RPG developers do best when they can control the experience. Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls, Dark Souls – these games are spectacular because there's nothing in those games that forces outside of the developer's control can ruin.

    MMO's in general are not for me – I should have qualified that in the piece. 

  •  I guess I should have said before, that I do appreciate the objections brought up in your article. They are absolutely valid concerns. These are things that Bethesda needs to hear when working on this game so that they know the things that they need to work on, and include/avoid.

    I haven't played many RPG to MMORPG crossover games. In fact, I'd say that SWTOR may be the first. Although, as much as I enjoy KOTOR, I wouldn't even compare it side by side with SWTOR because their styles are in the end very different, and the same will most likely be said about this game. That will most likely turn some people off, and make them decide not to try it. However, I think this would be an interesting look at this realm, and a way to discover more about the history and lore of Tamriel. There is the possibility that it will be imperfect and flop however, and I can see how that would make those of us greatly anticipating TES VI nervous.

  • Casey_Schumacher, wouldn't the most famous MMO be the best example ever? World of Warcraft is an amazing RPG to MMORPG port. 

  • Which game in the World of Warcraft universe do you classify as an RPG? To me they've all been RTS games.

  • If they were going to make an Elder Scrolls MMO they'd have to eliminate the ability to jump.  One thing that would definitely kill immersion for me would be twenty people jumping and spinning in circles around an auction house.

  • Haha, I hadn't even thought about that one. I'd just pictured the spamming of /dance, and that was nightmare enough.

  • And dont forget the "SK lovers mod" for elder scrolls VI, users would get no privacy with these adulterated mods, everyone would gather around like idiots and be like "EW LOL1010101010101010101010101!!!!! HEY GUYZ LAAAOOK AATTSSHH THIEAS!" or "YEAH EW LOLZ THAT RELLY DISCUSTANG" no showcase of mods becuase MMO's ar so open to every player nothing can be restricted to single player, if yu are a developer out there with a single player mode in the MMO industry, good for you! if youre one who makes it have players running out evry side door like mmo's should be restricted to all players just as soon as you finish a tutorial OR EVEN WORSE IN THE TUTORIAL (points the finger at fussionfall) im sorry to say this but YOURE RETARDED! so you get to a high up area just to get some privacy, well if someone was stalking you, or a freind teleported to you or some other mishap YOURE SCREWED BOTH VIRTUALL PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY AND THE FACT THEY RUN OFF TO TELL A MOD WHEN YOURE IN PROBABLY THE HARDEST TO REACH PLACE EVER TO EXIST, even if you outlayed a bunch of traps some idiot would get to you eventually, and the fact that all quests are linked together, someone could kill a gam e like skyrim if it as an MMO simply becuase everyone would kill every NPC's they ever find out there and thus make the storylines, and side quests impossible since every NPC's linked together like a huge network *kills someone* "OOPS 1010101010110101 LOOOOOLLLLZZZZZZZ" "yeah oops, you just broke skyrim!" and that is what i honestly say, if there is an MMO of any elder scrolls games its either 1. fanbased, or 2. isnt made by the developers who made these games.

  • Really it would probably be really popular with one of two crowds:  Either hardcore MMO gamers would hate it for being too much like the Elder Scrolls or Elder Scrolls fans would hate it for being too much like World of Everhammer.

  • Why they just add support for co-op?It wouldn´t better? I am fed up with number of fantasy MMORPG-specially where there is X asia clones of WoW. No, I don´t want some average MMORPG, which soon fall between others. If any multiplayer,then co-op for two players, nothing massive!

  • One note-Dark Souls have multiplayer-and it is quite large portion of that game. I think if you are on the network, you are still connect to server and you can see signs of presence of others players+others players can invade into your game. 

  • I've always wanted a mmo Elder Scrolls but you've made some interesting points and yes due to the bugs I myself have experienced and just the change that they've made to the game I'm not too excited anymore.  I wouldn't mind and this might be a better idea for them is to have a sort of closed community online experience for you to play with a few of your friends about 3-5 exploring all the lands of Tamriel.  It would still be capable of being a single player game like always with the option to have a real-life companion instead.

  • Hi Ladislav,

    Good point – I should have mentioned I turn the network off when playing the Souls games. Those are designed as single player games that use multiplayer to add a little to the experience for people who want it.

    I would not call them multiplayer RPGs though, not in the traditional sense.

    Thanks for the input though, and taking the time to leave a comment! 🙂

  • Some closed multiplayer modes could work, I agree, because then you'd be able to form a group where you had control over the experience and the roleplaying, if you wanted to.

    Great input – thanks for taking the time! 🙂

  • See. I think it would be better to have single servers. Just for an example the game Minecraft can have custom servers out of maps you've made so an experianced skyrim player could upload his map to play with HIS friends and no one else. That way you dont have those cheese servers where people sit at spawn (As you said) and go "Free sword for 50000 Iron Ingots" or having some lvl 28 kill you when you just start. It would also be nice if you could enable or disable pvp on your own server. The idea of a worldwide server is awful because your going to have men going "Look at this hot babe" And there will be naked bodies everywhere(Which afends alot of people)

    I like your ideas about that though.

  • One thing about MMORPGs that I absolutely love is how the world of the game actually feels populated. In WoW, as one example (I used to be a hardcore player though I haven't  played it at all in more than a year), there is just something awesome about being out in a far-off corner of the world but still coming across other actual players. Even if it's just riding or flying past them and throwing out a /wave. When I played Skyrim I noticed how much that was missing. The gameworld in Skyrim is awesome. It's big. It's beautiful. But it feels empty. Even with NPCs in the towns and sprinkled around the world itself, it just feels isolated knowing that in all that in-game space there isn't a single other real person.
    The ability to interact with other players (or not, as you choose) is what makes MMORPGs so truly epic. As many WoW players can tell you, the first time you take part in a FOR THE ALLIANCE (or FOR THE HORDE) raid, there's a sense of community that only an MMO can offer. I wouldn't trade that for the isolation of single-player under any conditions. So, I suppose it's no surprise that, even though I really liked the world of Skyrim, I only played it for a couple of weeks and then took the game back to Gamestop.

  • I have mixed feeling about an Elder Scrolles  MMORPG. It would be a good game, but not the same as the rest of the Elder Scroles, plus would lack the authentisity of the single player. (i know ny spelling is S**T)

  • Yeah an Elder Scrolls MMO doesn't sound very cool. It'll end up another World of Warcraft or Runescape.

  • I have to say the concerns in this article are pretty valid, more so in regards to Bethesda and "quality" control of their products. I also know people that will drop MMOs in a heartbeat due to what I would consider small issues. I think the biggest problem in the MMO industry is the veteran games like WoW being out so long now that people are used to a high level of polish with the older games when they try new MMOs and find "issues" they freak out easily.

    Most of these folks forget games like WoW and other AAA titles had severe issues themselves when they were new, I don't say this is an excuse to have a buggy game, just people like to forget the history of "their" game and then try to compare brand new games to 4,5,6,8+ year old games…..   Silly.

    Another poster used SWTOR as an example of how to merge a single player RPG into an MMO, I agree up to the end game and PvP. SWTOR did do a good job with storyline all the way up to level 50, and then dumped players into a very bland, typical MMO environment with weak raids and a weak PvP system. Both systems are OK the first couple of times, but turns into the normal MMO grind, which then losses the "epicness" feel players feel when adventuring through the game as they level.

    Pretty much you cruise to 50 going through an awesome class storyline, then hit a MMO brick wall at 50.

    So if Bethesda can get past their biggest issue (bugs and crashes) and also make an epic quest system that elder scroll players are used to, their other biggest challenge will be end game and avoiding what Bioware did, end game is what turned off just about everyone I know from that game eventually.

  • To me, the real problem is that I don't find MMO's interesting if they are already to a story. When you already know the end, I feel like it destroys all motivation to do anything. The reason games like TOR (or even WoW) are different is because the game has 1,000+ years off set. You could really do just about anything and still effect the much nearer future while not preventing the rise of the Skywalkers. I don't see how they are going to do that with TES. 

    You could set it after Skyrim and that would be fine except that would ruin any possible DLC after the main game because it would create the same problem and delay a new TES main game. Releasing TES 6 before TESO ran it's course would ruin TESO the same way that setting TESO before the Arena would. I don't know if I want to get attached to that and have it prevent me from enjoying the next main TES game or have to fell the reverse. And certainly not for what is probably going to be an inferior game. TOR is a great game as MMOs go but I think I still would have rather had KOTOR 3. And I say this as someone who has a bookshelf loaded with 70+ Star Wars books and played god only knows how many Star Wars games.

    Multiplayer put into TES in some way I could get behind but I'm very skeptical of TESO. I'll give it a shot because I love TES and I trust Bethesda. But I am damn skeptical and I'm not going to let it parade a title in my face and pretend it's a different game than it is (if it isn't up to snuff).

  • most of this opinionated. And my opinion completely disagrees with the statements made in point one. You make it seem like it would ruin it, but LotRO is an amazing game, and Lord of the Rings has always been the king of fantasy, so it isn't like it is without atmosphere. But that chatbox can be turned off. Not sure about you, but walking into an empty Whiterun kinda sucks knowing that if it were an MMO, there would be a city bustling with trading…like a city.

  • THANK YOU SO MUCH Casey-Schumacher for putting in to words of how i feel. and for 1k gold flaming sword what do people think that there wasn't drug addicts and beggars in that time i don't know mmorpg's that well but i think going online will bring new life to the series 

  • Bethesda has left huge gaps in their worlds that could be filled with an MMO. For example if we go back to Cyrodiil, after the events of the Oblivion crisis, everything went into chaos and fell apart. Events like the disbanding of the mages guild come to light as the college of winterhold mention that sometimes. If everything is in chaos and there is minimal order, that could be a good setting for an MMO, have whatever factions left give out missions similar to a WoW system of quest management. Then with this they can also give some narrative back to the player like TOR did, but not as bad. I would just like to see some of the places that you could visit in Oblivion, 200 or 300 hundred years later in the MMO world as ruins like some of the towns fallen apart, or the Argonians from black marsh move in and begin to over take some of the towns closer to the bottom of the map.

    Its just an idea that i would consider pursuing, like i said there is gaps that Bethesda could fill with an MMO, they could use it to fill in missing information not given in Skyrim. Or they could just destroy the franchise some other way, i will keep my hopes up.

  • Just ran across this now.  going to be a long post, but…

    Meh, I don't really think any of the points made about why it's not a good idea are actually valid.  I think most of the article is born from your angst with MMO games.  Don't get me wrong, I don't believe Elder Scrolls should be turned into an MMO.  For the most part, MMO's kinda suck.  They either have to be ridiculously easy to appease people like me who can't get more than 10 hours a week to play, or they are set like true MMOs and people like me can't play them because we always get left behind.  I think we need more great offline games like Elder Scrolls and less recycled garbage MMOs.

    But to my point, Elder Scrolls online wouldn't ruin the Elder Scrolls experience.  The atmosphere likely wouldn't be ruined and might even be enhanced.  Ok, so it's a pain to wait in line with 35 other people to talk to the captain of the guard, but that's the only real imersion breaker I can think of.  And if you really don't want breaks in imersion, play on an RP server.  Every modern game now has RP and RP PVP servers so you can play however you like.  Also, every game now has multiple chat channels.  You wanna be a tool and spam about your sword, do it on the trade channel.  You don't want to do it on the trade channel?  Then you can easily be /ignored.  I don't see how this is a problem.

    I also think MMOs are changing a bit.  With TOR, there are many linked quests as well as the kill 5 rats style quests.  People do want more story in their MMO and I think this is the path many more MMOs will go down in the future.  There is no reason why an MMO can't have linked quests.  Just because WoW doesn't have them doesn't mean that no MMO ever will, or that it's an impossible task to create them in an MMO.

    So, what other "fun stuff," besides reading books, is there in Elder Scrolls that would not make it into an MMO?  And, by the way, there are tons of people who would enjoy reading the lore in the game.  I'll bring up TOR again, but there have been other games in the past as well, in which you can gather lore and read it at your leisure.  It's quite popular.  Sure most PVP/action types aren't going to take the time to read the lore, but a lot of people do.  But that aside, you only mention one thing – the lore.  What else won't translate well to the online arena?

    Seriously?  Bugs?  Name one MMO that ever came out without crash bugs.  Go ahead, I'll wait…  Sure people demand a clean launch of an MMO, but they're never ever going to get one.  The reason why is they also demand quick launched and don't like to wait.  Additionally, there are economic factors with investors demanding return on investment ASAP.  It is simply impossible for any MMO to release without catastrophic bugs for someone's rig.  This is a very weak argument for failure of an Elder Scrolls MMO.

    And why wouldn't it be an Elder Scrolls MMO?  There is plenty of history in every game which is hinted at in books.  I fail to see why making a game which takes place within that history would not be an Elder Scrolls game.  There are legends and stories in every game they've put out which they could link to or which you could even participate in.  Or simply they could pick a time of strife not just with monsters, but amongst the kingdoms as well so you can get your PvP game on.  Not sure how this cannot be done without staying within an Elder Scrolls storyline.

  • The thing that turns me off the most about MMO's is that you can never loot the actual items a character has. For example, in Star Wars, I can be attacked by a Sith dual wielding shiny red light sabers and wearing some bad ass armor. But when I kill him, the only loot will be a few credits, or some random item drop. Why can't I pick up those shiny awesome light sabers? In Bethesda games (Skyrim, Fallout 3/New Vegas) if somebody attacks me with a big bad sword or plasma rifle, I can kill him and take that sword or plasma rifle for myself. If I see a guy walking around in power armor, I can kill him and take that power armor for myself. With few exceptions, if a character is wearing/wielding something, you can take it from them. This is a huge immersion factor and one of the reasons why I continually forgive Bethesda for the game crippling bugs that they leave in their games and is the number one reason why I keep trying but dropping different MMOs.    If they do make an Elder Scrolls MMO, this is what I am afraid will change. I'm afraid that it will end up being another re-skin of WoW.

  • The thing about RPG's is, you are THE hero, you aren't just one out of all the other players, you are the guy EVERYONE wants to be, with wow you are just another adventurer, but with Skyrim, you are Dovahkiin! You are the last hope for the world!

  • I'm really not looking forward to this MMO. It is not going to be a sandbox experience, so it won't be Elder Scrolls. I think Skyrim proved that you don't need multiplayer to have an enjoyable video game.

    Bethesda, do this: quit the MMO and take all of that development cash and apply it toward development of a sequel to Fallout or Elder Scrolls. In the mean time, start releasing some damn Skyrim DLC, and make one of those DLC packs add a coop mode, where one friend, upon invite, can join my game and take control of the current NPC follower I'm using. Allow my Girlfriend to control Lydia while I save the world; that's the only multiplayer you need.

  •  Sorry dude, TOR was garbage. IDK how you can even mention Skyrim and TOR in the same sentence; let alone compare them. MMOs are stale and repetitive. The few MMOs that have tried to be different, or have tried to embrace the "sandbox" gameplay haven't done well.

    Fact is, regardless of the potential that early MMOs had, WoW has soured the milk as they say. The vast majority of MMO addicts expect a style of game similar to WoW, but will then moan about the stale, grinding repetitive nature of the game. If the game isnt like WoW they wont play it because it's outside of their comfort zone. TOR is no different, nor are the vast majority of current gen MMOs. Skyrim actually gave me a little hope for RPGs and gaming in general, an MMO would only hurt the IP and detract from the positives that Skyrim brought to modern gaming.

  • ive hated every mmo ive ever played i liked kotor the rpg and it made me mad they made it an mmo and i dont like that they are making a tes mmo

  • "The great difference is that every MMO I’ve ever played, from World of
    Warcraft to Final Fantasy XI and Guild Wars, has set its quests up to be
    self-contained little adventures."

    That's just completely wrong. You obviously haven't played the big chain quest in WoW. I've been playing wow on and off from vanilla and the amount of lore present in the WoW universe and how it reflects to the living world through quest and stories is just beyond any modern game. Yes TES has impressive fantasy worlds and lore, but so does other games.

    Besides its time to get TES online. If you don't like it too bad, majority wants it.

  • ouch… that game (from my understanding) has a bleeding fan base. In fact several new people just joined my server in FFXI as old as it is they came from SWTOR…

  • Even FFXI has TONS of chain quests, and main job related quests all the way to lvl 99! Literally hundreds of hours of cutscenes! so ya i agree hes nuts lol!

  • You're all boring and unwilling to explore a side project type idea. Go ahead do what you do every day play the same games,you won't you will evolve with the industry!

  • Hi Ladislav,

    Good point – I should have mentioned I turn the network off when playing the Souls games. Those are designed as single player games that use multiplayer to add a little to the experience for people who want it.

    I would not call them multiplayer RPGs though, not in the traditional sense.

    Thanks for the input though, and taking the time to leave a comment! 🙂

  • I'm totally agree with you, word by word. The elder Scrolls is a game made for give you the sense of lonelines in a world full of history, you feel you are a single footprint in a world that there is no goods and bads, just you and the path you chose.

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