Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The New Skyrim MMO: Skyrim or not, sign me up

The announcement of the Elder Scrolls MMO, that's apparently been in development for a few years now, was met with a lot less enthusiasm than Bethesda might have wished. Fans of the offline games were pissed Bethesda has been "wasting" dev resources on an MMO.   MMO enthusiasts greeted the announcement of what in many ways seems to be a Skyrim skinned WoW-alike with a distinct "meh." I can kind of relate to both camps.

One of my all time favorite games was The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. Though offline, I found it enthralling enough to play for six solid months.  There aren't many MMOs I have stuck with for so long, and even fewer offline RPGs.  I love MMOs, and I love The Elder Scrolls franchise, but I just don't see them mixing all that well at first glance.  All of the things I love about ToS games are things that you just can't do in a MMO.  I can't permanently kill NPCs in a MMO, much less depopulate entire towns because the gatekeeper gives me lip, as it will bork quests for other players.  I can't create spells or magic items that are stupidly overpowered  since they would throw off balance.  Even if everyone could make the same OP spells, the entire playerbase would end up having to use the two or three OP combos to be competitive.  Hell, I can't even become a werewolf or vampire as the mechanics of it would be too hard to balance with all the other options (there's that "nothing can be stupidly OP" in a multiplayer game thing again).

As Bernardparsnip pointed out, the MMO we've been reading about doesn't really sound like an Elder Scrolls Game at all.  Further, considered as a new WoW-alike, do we really need another WoW/ LoTRO/ EQ II/ AO/ ROM/ Rift/ AoC/ SWTOR (ect.)?   The consensus from the MMO blogosphere seems to be "no, not at all really."

Despite all this,  I maintain that this not-really-at all-Elder-Scrolls Elder Scrolls MMO is going to rock.  Why?  Three faction realm-vs-realm combat.  The first MMO to hold my attention for more than a month was Dark Age of Camelot.  It had the best core PvP concept I've ever encountered in a MMO.  It was definitely asymmetrical warfare, where the side that showed up with the most guys to a fight had a big advantage.  However, instead of the sides being split into two (ala LoTRO's PvP zone, that one planet in SWTOR, pretty much all of Warhammer Online and numerous other games where asymmetrical combat really doesn't work well) the game was split into three factions so that that the little guys could gang up on the big guy if balance got out of hand.  The leveling game was also separated off from the PvP game, so if you just wanted to do some grinding and level you didn't have to worry about getting ganked constantly.  DAoC combined the best of a hardcore PvP game a and a devoted PvE game in many ways.

There was only one real problem with it: the solo PvE game was boring as hell.  There were few quests, and even fewer worth doing (to be fair I'm talking the the early 2000s, it was a game of it's era).  You mainly leveled by grinding mobs, and many classes sucked at grinding solo.  Better quest chains and a series of leveling battle grounds were patched in later, but the fact remains that leveling to 50 to get to all that awesome end-game three way PvP remains a bit painful to this day.* So much so that in recent years you get a free level every so often for every one you earn normally (no really).

This is where the new Skyrim MMO comes in. The end game is three way RvR combat ala DAoC, done by some of the same guys that helmed DAoC.   According to even the the haters, stuck onto the side of it will be a WoW style extremely smooth  PvE leveling game.  It might not be an Elder Scrolls game, but damn that basic design description has me juiced.   Like WoW, only the endgame doesn't make me want to vomit?  Sign me up!

All that said, even if DAoC 2.0 with a Skyrim theme doesn't appeal to you, I think Crafty has the right of it: we don't know enough yet to judge most of the game one way or another. Let's wait and see before we start balling up our undergarments.

*Disclaimer: it's been at least three years since I went back to DAoC, the PvE leveling game could be all kinds of awesome by now for all I know.


  1. Well, if anyone ever asks me what I think of the Elder Scrolls MMO, I'll just point to this post and pretend that my name is Yeebo. Another great post.

    This is one of those situations where the choice to randomly assign an IP to the game creates false expectations. Just look at the Xcom shooter fiasco.

  2. I agree with you, the choice to saddle the game with the Skyrim IP probably did more harm than good. If they had either come up with a new IP, or chosen one more appropriate to the game they are designing, I think there would be a lot more excitement around around this game.

  3. Thanks for the shout out! Have you had a chance to read about any of the projected features for the game in this month's Game Informer? I have the e-mail sitting in my in-box, but the stupid filter at work won't let me see it, so I'll be writing something up about what I think after I've had a chance to look it over this evening. One thing I will definitely be crying a bit over is the big, seemingly non-negotiable statement, "NO PLAYER HOUSING!" *weep*

  4. No I haven't, I don't subscribe to GI. I'm looking forward to second hand impressions though :-)

  5. I can't permanently kill NPCs in a MMO, much less depopulate entire towns because the gatekeeper gives me lip, as it will bork quests for other players. I can't create spells or magic items that are stupidly overpowered since they would throw off balance.

    I thought about this awhile ago - basically I think it's doable, you simply have a 'balance' server and a 'gone wild' server. You can even migrate your character from one to the other (though when migrating from the gone wild server, you will suffer huge nerfs no doubt).

    In the gone wild server, you can kill NPC's and make wild weapons. This server might be reset ever three or six months.

    In the balance server, it's pretty much the same deal as a regular MMO - can't kill NPC's, monsters respawn, balanced weapons, etc.

  6. I can see that working actually. I think they'd have to reset it a little more often than you envision, as I imagine most of the towns would be smoking ruins (or at least corpse filled ghost towns) within a month or two of the "go wild" servers going live. Still, it would be interesting to play an MMO where you don't know whether entire towns will be there from one session to the next.